E-Books or Real Books – Which do you prefer?


( I love a library full of real books)

This week, the Word Press weekly writing challenge asked that I vote for my preference: e-books or paperbacks. Then I could  write a blog post about why I voted as I did.

I found it hard to vote because the poll wouldn’t let me choose both options. I imagine I am not unlike many readers of today – I love the convenience of my Kindle but I wouldn’t give up books I can hold in my hands without a fight. In the end I chose the paperback option because if I were forced to give up one or the other, I know which one it would be.

I have found that some situations lend themselves to the convenience of my Kindle. I grab it whenever I leave the house. It’s great for those inevitable waiting times because it allows access to a wide variety of reading options. A forty-five-minute wait at the doctor’s office is different from a five-minute wait at the bus stop – or say an overnight wait to get your soon-to-be five-year old signed up for Kindergarten in your catchment area (I kid you not – my daughter and son-in-law just went through this – it’s a crazy world).

I have read books on my Kindle that were every bit as engaging and gripping as books I held in my hands to read. I have forgotten I was using an e-reader and have actually reached forward with one hand to try to turn a page rather than just click the page turn button.

My Kindle has expanded my book reading choices. In the past I wouldn’t have put out the cash to take a chance on certain books. For 99 cents to maybe $2.99 and the instant gratification of whisper-net technology, I’m quite willing to try out something new. And that’s a good thing, especially for a writer. I’m all for broadening horizons.

Why do I still believe that when I settle into the recliner with a fresh cup of coffee or a glass of wine, I need to hold a real book in my hands? Or that cuddling into bed at night to read would not work with my Kindle?

It may be an old fashion idea related to value. Many traditionally published novels are expensive when purchased for an e-reader ( expensive compared to so much that is available in e-format, but still not as expensive as buying a hardcover.) Why would I go out and spend $20.00 to $35.00 for a hardcover and feel that has more value than spending $18.00 for the Kindle version? It’s a good question and the only answer I can come up with is that with a hardcover, I hold something tangible in my hands. It has weight and it takes up space, ultimately gathering dust on a shelf somewhere in my home. I could pass it on to my husband to read or lend it to a friend. The former would not touch the Kindle to save his soul, but in the case of lending a book to a friend, I would so rarely do this voluntarily that it makes a thin argument.

It might have to do with being a book hoarder. (Which, by the way, might explain my reluctance to lend.) Seeing all the books on the shelf is a visible sign of successful hoarding and gives me a guilty ping of pleasure.

Maybe it is the inherent distrust that a fifty-plus-year old has about electronic gadgetry. What if the Kindle breaks down? I do know that all my purchases are safe with Amazon. It’s just too bad that knowing with the rational brain and believing are two radically different things.

And then there is the issue of upgrading. I’ve never felt the urge to upgrade a book. I am now on my fifth laptop in less than ten years and I have to admit, all the old ones still work. I didn’t upgrade due to system failure – I wanted the new and improved model. I purchased my Kindle two years ago. There are much nicer ones on the market now. Thus is the nature of electronic wizardry.

I suppose I should acknowledge all the trees that could be saved if everyone read e-books instead of the paper and ink kind. It’s a valid issue, but what about the amount of energy that is needed to supply the mainframes and servers of the worldwide web so that e-books can exist and fly through cyberspace to our readers? Surely we should consider that as well. But, like many issues, nothing is black or white. With online purchasing there is no need to build and maintain large stores that consume energy resources, while of course employing real people. I’m starting to make my own head spin by going back and forth so many times.

When all is said and done – here I sit – spanning two worlds of the written word – one foot firmly planted in the old world of print media and the other tip-toeing through the new world of electronic books. And the truth is this – I don’t want to move either foot.

29 comments on “E-Books or Real Books – Which do you prefer?

  1. 16jh says:

    I like the fact you addressed a side I hadn’t considered at all- the idea of the wider picture. How does it affect the environment, how much energy is used in creating but then how many employment opportunities are created etc. It’s a good spin to take on it all. Reading is so personal sometimes that I think I only consider its personal fors and againsts, rather than the bigger picture.

    • As I said in the blog, I was getting dizzy with spinning between the differing aspects of the question. Lately, I find this is what I am always doing – in writing and in commenting on other peoples’ blogs – asking the question, what about this or that? Thanks for stopping by and making a comment 🙂

  2. Very, very well said.

  3. Jeni says:

    An excellent case for bipartisanism.

  4. Hands down, real. But, I do own both and feel that both have a place and a purpose. Good post. :0)

  5. Gwen says:

    So many great points you bring up here. My book buying habits have certainly changed as well since I became a Nook owner. I, too, will take a chance on the 99-centers, just to see what self-pubbed authors are putting out there. It’s been educational from a writing viewpoint.

    I clicked your link and submitted my vote to the poll as well. There was no doubt as to what readers of the Daily Post prefer – print books, by a sizable margin.

    Interesting we posted on similar topics today. You know what they say about great minds 🙂

    • mpskydog says:

      And I have to admit, it isn’t unlike the earlier part of her post where she mentioned that she wanted to vote for both – I, too, voted for physical books. But I have to wonder how many other people would have preferred a third choice on the poll.

    • I’m with you on the great minds thing . . . I like that as opposed to two minds with but a single thought or they haven’t got an original thought between the two of them – LOL – we are definitely coming down on the great side. I enjoyed your post as well.

  6. Thank God..I thought I was the only one trying to manually turn a page on my Kindle. I was afraid that I was getting senile! I didn’t vote, but, the printed words on paper hold more of a sentimental value to me than an electronic device.

    This was a great piece, I enjoyed every word of it! Good job.

    • Thanks so much. It is a strange feeling, isn’t it? Going to turn a page that isn’t there. A good story transports me to another time and place and I guess it doesn’t really matter how that story is delivered. So glad you enjoyed the post.

  7. Gemma Hawdon says:

    I hadn’t thought about my kindle breaking down – YIKES! One thing I have noticed since buying a kindle is the amount of times I finish the last line gasping to pass the novel on to my friends as I used to, only of course, I can’t! But I’m all for saving the trees (and the money) – so the kindle is winning at the moment 😉

    • I had heard somewhere that there is a way to lend (for a limited amount of time) an e-book from one Kindle to another – no idea how it works. But somehow it seems like it wouldn’t be the same as putting a book in someone else’s hand.

  8. mysticcooking says:

    I’m with you on the two-foot straddle thing. 😉 I used to be totally against ereaders until I had to move to the third floor, and I realized how incredibly heavy all my boxes of books were. After that I bought a kindle, and I’d say 90% of the books I buy these days are through that, although I’ll still pick up the occasional paperback.

  9. Christine Penhale says:

    This is an excellent question Fran. I am a “real” book lover and you will have to pry my “real” book from my cold, dead hands. Five years ago I was vehemently against ebooks. For me, nothing beats holding a “real” book in my hands. I love the feel, smell, and material realness of “real” books. However, five years ago I would not have felt the need to put the descriptor “real” in scare quotes. Unfortunately, I think this means that I must have at some point conceded that there are other kinds of books in play. I also have to admit that after hauling over thirty hardcover books from the university library to my house by bus and foot I am starting to see that there may be some value in ebooks – namely their easy portability. Even though I have an iPad2 I would not consider purchasing an ebook if it was for what I consider to be “fun reading.” I might consider downloading ebooks for academic reading, but I would miss underlining things in pencil and placing sticky notes throughout the text. I would also lose out on seeing what other scholars have written in the margins and have marked as important points to consider – both of which are informative and endlessly entertaining. In short, you can place me firmly in the “real” book camp, but I do hesitatingly concede that there may be some limited benefits to ebooks in certain situations.

    • I love your comment about the marginalia – I’ve discovered that kind of treasure before and it can be in equal measure hilarious and fascinating. Also interesting is your realization that in even using the expression “real” book, you have allowed the reality of the e-book world in.

  10. wordsavant says:

    I enjoyed reading this post. I also have the same feelings. I enjoy e-books, but if given a choice, I would choose paperbacks any day. The story in the book may be the same, but the reading experience is different.

    I’m curious though about the environmental impact. It’s easy to assume that books are worse on the environment, because of the paper they use. But what about the resources that go into manufacturing electronic devices? Our laptops, cell phones, iPods, and e-readers are no better. Mining the resources needed for this technology and then manufacturing doesn’t exactly keep the air clean.

    Thank you for sharing. It’s interesting to hear from someone who reads the paperback and the e-reader.

    • I had written an additional paragraph for this post that ended up being cut due to length – it dealt with exactly what you are mentioning here. The resources required to produce electronic devices as well as the enivronmental impact of e-waste. As in so many areas of our modern life – we need to bring informed awareness to our choices.

  11. st sahm says:

    Real book for sure! i appreciate the scent, illustratioins and weight…

  12. I found your blog through WLC Francis. Great to connect.

  13. I can’t read my Kindle inthe bathtub! well not witout significant risk. this fact demands the real book!

  14. Hi What a very relevant and interesting post! I am still toying with the idea about kindles and ‘real’ books but I think that both have their value. I am a book hoarder like yourself though and would miss my real books if they weren’t standing on their shelves looking over me!

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