A Current Thought on Ebooks

by syaffolee

There are still people around who will still insist that ebooks are rubbish and that reading should be done with physical books. I get the sense that they’re afraid that the physical book will go the way of the dodo and they’ll be forced to only read ebooks all the time. To some people, having the book as a physical object is something that they find comfort in. Personally, I think there’s room for both physical books and ebooks. And having people from either side trying to advocate for their way of reading as correct is a pointless exercise. There are multiple purposes to reading and physical books and ebooks may be better suited for one purpose or another.

So it was with interest that I read the essay “Confessions of a Kindle Convert.” I would say that I agree with the points made in it. Having an ebook is so convenient. I can literally access my entire Kindle library from my phone and read wherever I find myself, whether it’s waiting in line at a store or traveling somewhere. And if there’s a book that I want to read that’s not currently in my library, well, I can buy it right then and there. Instant gratification. As for making me a more adventurous reader, I think that’s true, too. I’ve been able to read some really crazy stuff that I’m pretty sure wouldn’t be found on most bookstore or library shelves.

There are some people who will insist that they cannot read on screens and so will never buy ebooks. To that, I just shrug. That’s fine. If you only want to read physical books and ignore ebooks altogether, that’s your prerogative. Just don’t tell me that I need to change my reading habits to match yours. I got used to reading on a screen in grad school after I decided that printing out reams of paper just for journal articles was a waste. (I definitely did not want to end up like another grad student whose desk turned into a towering fortress of dead trees and printer ink.) For me, having a library of ebooks is practical as I don’t have very much physical space in my home in the first place.

That said, I would say the existence of ebooks and physical space limitations has an enormous influence on what sorts of books I purchase. I am far more experimental and impulsive when it comes to ebooks. I have so many ebooks that, well, we should probably not talk about how many ebooks I have in my library. Just know that it’s a ridiculous number and that I should make a concentrated effort to get some of them read. I still buy physical books, but I am far more picky about what I end up taking home with me. It’s not only about the author or subject. It’s also about the publisher, the condition, and even sometimes the edition.

While there are certainly some downsides about ebooks–most which I feel stem from far deeper systemic inequalities which aren’t inherently the fault of the technology itself–I think ebooks has just made the reading experience so much easier. People shouldn’t be ashamed of reading an ebook instead of a physical book. Being a snob about physical books in particular  just paints one as a materialistic rather than cerebral. Because in either case, you’ve read the same words and the author has gotten their ideas across to you.