Monday, February 4, 2013

The Great Benefits of E-Books

I don't have an e-reader*.  I've read one e-book on the Kindle for Mac App, but I'm not in a hurry to read another one.  I have more than enough physical books on my bookshelves and on the library's bookshelves to get through before I can justify buying an e-reader and buying books for said e-reader.  Call me a luddite, if you will, but really I just haven't needed an e-reader.  I enjoy physical books, and find I tend to skim-read anything on a screen. At the moment I don't read enough, mostly just too much screen skim-reading.  And I'm not blaming having kids: it's pure laziness on my behalf.

Oh, I know there are Great Benefits to e-readers, and I will concede that an e-reader would help when travelling with reading material to locations where it would be too difficult to swap your last read at a book exchange or drop into an op shop.  (My holidays always are filled with good intentions to read, but it rarely happens, though I never travel on my own.)  I guess some e-readers would weigh less than some books, too, and maybe are smaller, which could be handy if you were carrying a book to read with you a lot.   Though, if I'm going to take a book with me to read somewhere, I take something small and lightweight. I know. Crazy. 

One Great Benefit that is often touted in discussions on e-books is that you can store THOUSANDS of books on your e-reader. Think how much SPACE you can save by not having to store all those books in your house.   Logic tells me this: if you read one book a day, it would take three years to get through just ONE thousand books, let alone however many more thousands of books are stored on your Super Duper e-reader.  If you only read one book a week, and I seriously doubt many working outside of an English Literature related field would read any more than this, it will take TWENTY YEARS to get through a thousand books. (Meanwhile, I'm culling my books and letting the libraries and secondhand bookstores store my reading material.) Digital storage doesn't make less clutter, it just makes digital clutter.

A more contentious Great Benefit to e-readers is the environmental benefit. I remain skeptical. No trees are cut down to make e-readers, but an e-reader isn't going to last as long as a paper book, it needs to be charged regularly, and the servers where the e-books are stored before being purchased need to be run on electricity.  I have well-read books on my bookshelves that are older than me. I'd like to see an e-reader still in use into its thirties.  Digital has its own environmental footprint. Just because it is stored on a hard drive doesn't mean it uses no resources.

One final note.  An article I read this week said this: 

"Fiction is moving to e-book more quickly than non-fiction, especially romance and crime; in fact sales of romance novels have dramatically increased. This stands to reason by the way: I tend to buy crime fiction on my tablet and serious non-fiction in print, although that may change in future.The biggest market for e-books is women over 45 and whereas the split between female and male print book consumers is 60-40, in digital form it's 70-30."

I'm not certain what to make of this.  People who tend to read literary fiction are slower to transition to new technologies? People who read non-fiction would prefer to make notes on the text? E-readers are an easier way to hide the fact that you are reading Mills and Boon? (Are they still publishing those, or do I just sound old/ignorant?) Maybe I'm just not old enough to get into the whole e-reader thing, given that I'm still well off 45. 

Go ahead, enjoy your e-reader. One day I might convert. I sincerely hope the digital publishing world takes off. That writers are paid well for their work. But I equally hope that ease of digital publishing doesn't diminish the standards of books and reading, because a good book is a marvellous thing. Oh, and I hope real books hang around a little longer yet. There are literally thousands of books in my local library, and I haven't read them all yet. 

*The terms e-reader and e-book give me the giggles.  Remember when new words were taken from other languages, like French or Latin. Okay, neither do I, but I've read about it happening a long time. ago.  These days, you just whack a vowel in front of a word and voila! a new word! 

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