eReaders vs. paper books

I have an eReader, a Sony. I also covet the Kindle, although Barnes and Noble’s Nook is looking incredibly appealing. I also own several hundred paper books.

I read an article today that seemed to imply, as so many articles do, that e-books are inferior to paper books, and that e-books are taking over the world. This article doesn’t make the argument that e-books – or, rather, e-publishing – are destroying publishing and literature and the quality of writing and hence the world.

What it does do is something that pretty much all the other articles do: it implies that e-books and paper books can’t coexist. That if you have an eReader, then you’ve given up on ‘traditional’ books. This is so untrue.

Just take a look at my own buying habits. I have an eReader. I have several hundred books from various sources on my eReader. And just last week I bought three more paper books including a hardcover that I’m pretty sure is available as an e-book.

I use my eReader when I’m travelling, or when I know I’m going to have a short attention span, or when I know that the things I want to read are relatively short. I use it when I don’t want to, or can’t, carry a lot of books with me, or if I’m not sure what I’m going to be in the mood for. It’s useful for short reading windows, because it remembers what page I’m on, even if I switch to another book. I don’t have to find a bookmark or use some other kind of mnemonic.

If I have a lot of time, though, or am reading before bed, I’ll read a paper book. It’s still not great to curl up with an e-book. I think that’s because it only has display on one side. And it’s still a bit faster, for me, to read a paper book, because there is a time delay of a second or so on the page turn.

I am also a person fascinated by old books. One of my favourite things about my MA was the ability to look at manuscripts, even in facsimile. I am also fascinated by scrolls and tablets. Even hundreds of years from now, when we’re reading things in formats we can’t even imagine now or in literary forms we haven’t thought of, there will still be a place for today’s books.

My point, made very obtusely, is that there is room in my life for both paper and e-books. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive. And I get quite annoyed by people who imply that they do.

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