Honestly, I think people should spend less time arguing about eBook vs print, and more time reading.
That said, I’ll cover points I’ve heard way too many times and offer my opinion. If there are other points not covered, be sure to tell me in the comments and I’ll try to update to address them.
Before I begin, I should give you some information about myself so you can see where I’m coming from. I’ve always loved to read and I currently surround myself with books. Being disabled and stuck in a recliner most of the day, I find comfort in looking around and seeing my favorite titles a short distance away. I have both fiction and nonfiction, and while I take great pride in my antique and signed/limited editions, I also read them. I believe books are meant to be read, not placed on a shelf like some museum artifact. If a valuable book gets some wear from my using it, it’s because I was bonding with it, and that’s special to me.
My disability issues include migraines and questionable vision throughout the day, as well as problems with concentration. This naturally limits my ability to partake in my favorite pass time: reading and writing – especially reading because if the font size is fairly small, the eye strain worsens my migraines, and my vision… well, that’s obvious. Also, simple light glare off of a printed page adds to the strain. It’s not as bad as a computer screen, but it’s there. I think it’s often why reading makes us sleepy; our eyes are worn from the glare and font strain.
When I got a Kindle, this helped tremendously. The E-ink has zero glare so I can read much farther than I normally would without any strain. I can also adjust the font if my vision begins to change during a reading session. I absolutely love it! We bought one for my mother, who loves to read but once she’s finished a book, she never wants it again, so it does no good to buy them for her. She was getting them from the local library but she’d gone through the type she liked that they carried. They were happy to order more but she didn’t have specific requests. She was just like, “Give me some historical romance, that’s all!”
When she received it, she cried, but not because she was happy. It was because her stupid kids paid too much money on some gadget she didn’t want! Well, I explained that it was on my Amazon account and whenever a free book in her genre came about, which was all the time, I could click to add it and she’d have an everlasting supply of books. It paid for itself in no time! She was hesitant at first but now she takes it everywhere and goes on about all the great stories that she’d never hear of from the local library, and we pay for several of her books that look like something she’d love. Just don’t tell her!
Okay, I’ve rambled enough. You can see how much I love both sides in the eBook vs print debate, but since I usually see most of the hate going toward the new guy, I’ll be mostly biased toward eBooks.
eBook vs Print #1: There’s just something about holding a book in your lap and turning the pages, even bookmarking your spot.
I keep my Kindle in a leather case that feels just like holding a real book, so no issue there. Pages are turned with a push of a button. Seriously, I think that’s a silly thing to be concerned about. I don’t miss lifting my fingers for a moment from a new paperback only to have it all spring back closed so that I’d have to find my place again. My Kindle also bookmarks just fine, or simply remembers where I was reading last on any book it’s carrying.
eBook vs Print #2: I’ve got to have that smell. ZOMG, the smell! Oooh, that smell! Can’t you smell that smell?
I hear this one so much and it about drives me insane. Both this “point” and the first one are so ridiculous, imo, that it makes me wonder if the speakers even read any books. I understand the appreciation of how an old book smells, but isn’t the content more important?
That “old book smell” is because a tree pulp property known as lignin breaks down in the paper over time. When this happens, it gives off a vanilla scent. In addition to getting high from tree rot, you’re also smelling any other chemicals degenerating within the book, along with whatever the book has been exposed to over the years, such as animal dander, smoke, dead skin, body oils, and the like. Breathe all that in and sigh with ecstasy.
Or you could put your Kindle in a leather case, as I have, and give a little spray of vanilla perfume to the case material. Bingo! Old book smell achieved. You don’t even have to turn the Kindle on if the actual content is unimportant to you. Just open it up and inhale.
eBook vs Print #3: Print books have more collectible value and autographs are more important.
I completely agree with this point. An original first edition of a popular title, signed by the author, or perhaps a limited edition, is most certainly going to be more valuable than its digital counterpart, even if it’s signed through authorgraph. For something to have collectible status, it needs to be tangible, right? One needs to be able to collect it, as in pick it up.
However, this is still no different than the previous points. It is desiring books for an entirely different reason than what they were created for: to read, to spread information, to share ideas with others, to stimulate the imagination.
Collecting is for hobbyists, investors, hoarders, or simply those who need an ego boost when visitors come over. Regardless of the reason, reading them is generally low on the priority list. Even if you buy something because you’ve read it in another version and you love it so much that you want the best possible format out there, it’s still unlikely you’ll read that copy because you want to keep it nice.
Sometimes people buy the collector’s edition and read cheaper versions, like paperbacks or eBooks. Still, they’re not reading the nice books. And content is the most important part of a book, or else it would simply be an attractive paperweight, the equivalent of a museum artifact, as mentioned earlier.
And yes, I’d said I own several nice editions, but I also said I read them. Value is an afterthought. I merely want them to look nice on my shelf when I’m not reading them, so I get the nicest versions that I’m able, and then treat them like any other. So then, value isn’t the issue in this case.
Thus, when the value as a collector’s edition is taken out of consideration, the content is still the same as an eBook. The true value, imo, is still there.
eBook vs Print #4: You don’t own the eBooks. They can be taken away too easily.
I am very much against DRM (Digital Rights Movement). It gives sellers and publishers too much control over a product after it’s been bought. When you buy a print book, you take it home. A store manager can’t walk into your house, claim there were some rights issues that came up between them and the distributor, and pluck it from your shelf. The same should never occur with eBooks, though it has already.
For the record, I don’t put DRM on anything I’ve ever published because I believe if you buy a book, you should own it and be able to do whatever you want with it. If you want to use the free software called Calibre to convert a Kindle book to epub so you can read it on a different device, you can! You paid for it, so knock yourself out. Enjoy it.
And when you have Calibre, there is a plugin found here that you can use to strip the DRM from any of your ebooks. Then you can store them on your computer, cloud, or wherever and read from that batch without any worry of them disappearing on you, ever.
So while you’re taking ownership back of what you paid for in just a few simple clicks, pretend the DRM people are in front of you while you laugh and say, “F*** me? No, F*** you!”
eBook vs Print #5: eBooks are locked in to whatever device you buy them for. Once it’s obsolete, you have to buy them all over again in a different format.
That would suck if it were true. Thankfully, see #4 above about stripping the DRM and converting to whatever format you want.
Also, Sony recently closed down their Sony Readers and the store associated with it. They then transferred everyone’s accounts to Kobo, so the books were never lost, only moved. As for the e-readers, Sony Readers can read any epub, so the devices are fine until they wear out. There is never a guarantee that a business will be as thoughtful to their customers as Sony and Kobo were, but as you can see, this is a non-issue, either way.
eBook vs Print #6: eBooks can be stored by the thousands in the palm of your hand while there is never enough room for print.
Have you ever taken a print book along for a trip and realize it’s not all that good? Even if you brought some back-up books, have you thought about this one left at the house and darn, if you had just brought that one? With an e-reader, you can have everything right there. If a book you’re reading is no good, you can move on to the next with a click. Or if someone mentions a book that interests you during your running about, you can pull it up and buy it.
I remember the days of carrying a tattered book bag around for long road trips. Never again.
eBook vs Print #7: One accident and the e-reader is shot.
That’s a valid point. Drop it in a pool or spill something on it (unless you have a waterproof e-reader). Step on it, perhaps. They’re tough but they’re not impossible to break. Or they might just short out.
Of course, print books aren’t invulnerable, either. Cat pee can do a number on one, that’s for sure. I had a beautiful signed leather book that I was reading until a pipe burst in the ceiling right above my desk at work. The next day, it was thought to be fixed but happened again to someone’s laptop. Guess what? It dried out and still worked. I had to order a replacement book for $120 (back when I had that kind of money, lol).
Now think about this: say you buy an e-reader for $69, because you don’t need to spend more for all the fancy extras. We’re talking about reading here, not checking your email and playing games, surfing Facebook, and occasionally reading. eBooks, if they’re not sold by a crooked publisher, are much cheaper than print books, so you save a lot of money there, not to mention trees. When you figure in all the free eBooks available out there, then your e-reader has paid for itself many times over in no time at all. If an accident should occur down the road, you can replace it, sign in, and all of your books are there again. The same can’t be said for the books I lost during a flash flood about ten years ago.
eBook vs Print #8: Your sight might go with age, but your books can stay.
I had a friend once who had many cherished books, but as he got older and his health deteriorated, he could no longer read the average font size found in most books. Reading glasses didn’t help, either, so he began giving away his collection with a heavy heart as he replaced what he could with large print editions. Many titles weren’t available in that format, to his disappointment.
If only e-readers were more popular before he passed away.
And as I’d mentioned early on, I have trouble with my own sight, so Kindle helps me by being able to enlarge the font.
eBook vs Print #9: I want to read without being bothered by emails, messages, and ads, etc.
I don’t really get this point, or why people feel the need to buy the more expensive e-readers with all the extra abilities like watching movies, playing games, surfing the Internet, etc. I hear Kindle Fire is a nice, inexpensive tablet so I can see that, and being HD and color would be handy if you’re reading books with full-color illustrations, but otherwise, what’s the point?
What I’m saying is, again, the point is to read, not all that other stuff. If you don’t want other distractions, don’t pay all that extra money to have them!
As I’ve said earlier, I own the basic Kindle, and it’s the basic Kindle with ads. Since I bought it, the Paperwhite has been released and it looks cool, but I’m perfectly happy with what I have. The ads only show on the screen when I turn it off, and at the bottom when I’m on the menu screen. They never show up when I’m reading, so no big deal at all. And because I didn’t pay extra for all the bells and whistles, I don’t have the distractions.
The only way I could get distracted by emails, phone calls, this or that would be the same way as with a print book: by reading near the telephone or computer.
Seriously, I keep imagining someone buying the most expensive e-reader possible and doing everything but read a book with it, then complaining that it’s too distracting, and I don’t know whether or not to laugh or cry.
If you do own a Kindle Fire or iPad, as Adam J. Whitlatch points out in the comments, you can switch them to airplane mode to get rid of those nasty distractions. So there is still no reason to fuss.
eBook vs Print #10: Allergies and something else for germaphobes.
One unfortunate thing about print books is they are dust and dander magnets. I’m very allergic to dust, etc, and often when I open a book, I get migraines, swollen eyes, and sneezing fits. This is more so with older books where the paper deteriorates as well. Many newer books have acid-free paper that handle the wears of time better.
And speaking of sneezing fits, one downside to buying used books or checking them out from libraries is all the hands they’ve passed over. Think of all the body oil seeped into the cover and pages from sweaty hands, not to mention dead skin, even on microscopic levels. How many times have the open books been sneezed into? Were hands washed before each handling? Doubtful. And keep in mind how a lot of people enjoy reading in the bathroom.
If you think I”m over-reaching a bit, check out this article where professors discovered traces of herpes and cocaine on a library copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.
Needless to say, this is all less likely from an e-reader.
eBook vs Print #11: Helping children in developing countries improve reading skills with better access to literature.
What’s easier: building and filling up libraries in developing countries, and funding all the money required to keep them going; or putting Kindles in the hands of the students?
You guessed it. SEE HERE.
ebook vs Print #12: Returns:
My friend Adam J. Whitlatch explains this point on his blog HERE. Please check it out.
ebook vs Print #13: More access to knowledge
Libraries offer an incredible wealth of free knowledge in both print and ebook formats. But then there’s MIT:
Well, that’s all I could think of for now with the big eBook vs Print debate.
Again, let me know of any more points to tackle in the comments, or perhaps points mentioned that I should expand on better.