The book-vs.-e-reader debate and why it doesn’t matter

Posted: February 25, 2014 in Musings
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

When I began blogging just over two year ago, one of the first posts I read in my manic search through WordPress blogs asked whether you prefer e-readers or books. There were lots of responses and more keep showing up even months after the original post, mostly in favor of books.  Just today on Facebook, there was a thread about the same thing, with people who like “real” books best the most vehement.  I find myself shaking my head and wondering why the discussion continues.

I’ve been a certified, or possibly certifiable, bibliophile from the time my mom read aloud to us.  I knew where every horse book was at the library branch we used.  I ordered books from Scholastic book club and was shocked to hear that there were not only children, but families at the school where Mom taught for several year who didn’t own a singe book.  I gave some of my precious books to her to give to some of the children.  After all, we didn’t have much money, but we always had books.

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When I went backpacking in Europe for almost a year in the mid-seventies, I had to find English books or magazines wherever possible.  Thankfully people left them at hostels or B&B’s and shared them with fellow English-readers.  Once in awhile I spent some of my precious money on them at the rare bookstore with books in English.  Before I got a library card in the Wyoming town where we go for vacation each year (we really go to the mountains near the town, but the library’s in town), I used to haul two or three bags full of books along in the van to avoid that fate worse than death–running out of reading material.  Even when spending most of the day outside on horseback or hiking, there’s always time in the morning or evening for reading.

So when Bill got me a Kindle some years ago, I was quick to see the advantage.  I could carry literally thousands of books with me wherever I went.  All I had to do was to be sure to also carry the charging cord and, if necessary, an adapter.  How could that be bad???

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Yes, I like to read “real” books.
Yes, I love the smell of books.
Yes, my library card is one of the most valuable cards I own and new taxes for libraries about the only ones I’ll vote for.  Our library system is a treasure; a place where you can find out almost anything you want and learn practically anything, all for no cost.  (Yes, I know taxes are a cost, but you know what I mean.)
Yes, I have boxes and boxes of books in the basement in our rental house and hope one day to have a room to serve as a library.
Yes, I have piles of books in the living room and elsewhere. Isn’t decorating with books always in?

BUT…and that’s a big but…

what’s not to like about being able to read on an e-reader?

No, I don’t like having to buy books and no, I don’t like that e-books are getting to be rather expensive, they can’t be given away, sold to Half Price Books or donated somewhere when I’m finished with them (provided they’re some of the rare books I want to get rid of.)

I like to read. Period. Whatever book or device helps me to do that with the least amount of effort is in my book (so to speak) great. Who says we have to choose? Why should owning an e-reader not be a great thing and owning books a great thing? They both have their place and that place is, as the ad says, anywhere I want to be.

And guess what? E-readers contain books. I know it’s a shock, but it’s true. They have the same words as if you held the literal book in your hands. The pages just turn differently.

Book or e-reader? Bring ’em both on!
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  1. Adam Ickes says:

    You’ve summed up my thoughts on the subject pretty well. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Both have their place and both should be embraced.

  2. Jim Kane says:

    Well said Janet! I have both and I am reading now more than ever!



    • Jim, if I read more now, I’d never get anything else done. 🙂 Not saying it wouldn’t be fun, but… Thank goodness for libraries, as there’s no way I could afford to buy all the books I read!


  3. I love my e-reader, think it’s the most used thingy in our house :o) But I miss it to go to a library or to go to the bookstore. It was great to talk with the owner of the store about books and to get some suggestions. With all the electronic stuff we lost a small part of social life, I think. To buy a book via “whispernet” is not really the same :o)

    • You’re right. There’s nothing like a bookstore or library and I do those, too, as often as possible. I think with technology we lost more than a small part of social life, at least the face-to-face kind. How often do you see people “together”, but all on their devices? That’s sad.


  4. Gina says:

    I love them both, too. Reference books on my e-reader are amazing. I can search through them, highlight, and make notes right in the book without defacing it. Oh, and some e-books will let you loan them, once, for 14 days. On Amazon, go to “manage my Kindle.”. Each title you received through them has an “actions” menu. One of those actions is to “loan this title.”

    I choose e-books over paper most of the time now, but I still buy paper at times. Not everything is available on e-books, and I don’t pay substantially more for an e-book if the paper copy is a bargain.

    As an author, I want readers to choose their preference, so I’ll publish everything n both formats anytime I can.

    In the end, it’s books I love.

    • That’s my point, Gina. A book is a book, no matter the format. It’s great to be able to check out e-books from the library, especially if you don’t live near a library. I’ve read books on my laptop, which is more cumbersome than either a book or e-reader and have the Kindle app on my iPad. I draw the line at my iPhone, though. It’s too small!! Of course, if that’s all I could take with me, I’d have that Kindle app in a flash. 🙂

      Thanks for dropping by and for your comments. Read on!


  5. I’m with you, Janet! I embrace both! Here’s a question for you. While on the road, do you use a travel guide? Print or an e-version? Interesting post! T.

    • Theodora, I usually look things up in advance and jot down places I/we might like to see. Now that I have an iPhone, I can check online if I need to while on the road but unless necessary, I plan in advance. For the trip to Costa Rica, all the print guide books were checked out, so I used an e-travel guide from the library. So some of both but tending towards paper and I still use paper notes, even though I know I can put things in my phone. For everyday lists, I like to check things off as I finish them, which makes me feel I’m getting things done (or sometimes not). It may also be that that’s how I’m used to doing it and someday I may use phone lists more.


  6. M. R. says:

    If you’re looking to start a choleric thread, beautiful Janet, you done good. 🙂
    I got a Kindle a while back – don’t remember when. I loathe it. I loathe the fact that there’s so little text on a screen that I seem to be constantly pressing the side thinggy; I loathe the fact that I’m constantly pressing it incorrectly; I loathe the fact that because I use it so rarely I have to recharge it for a year or two on the odd occasion; I loathe its B&W-ness, I loathe the fact that I can’t riffle back to remind myself of something without its becoming a major production; I loathe the way the prices of eBooks are creeping ever higher (as was ALWAYS going to be the way) …
    Basically, I believe eReaders are probably fantastic for busy people on the move. Stringer and I would’ve had a couple for our travels. My little sister writes of hers all the time.
    Me? – well, you know my opinion. It’s jaundiced.

    • Kindle now has the Paperwhite, which appears to look much like a regular book, albeit without the ability to easily go back though the pages, something I miss, too. Reading on my iPad is easier in some ways, but the Kindle is great for really bright places. The e-book price is probably the most aggravating thing to me.

      Do I use my Kindle when I’m at home? Not usually, because I have vast numbers of books in the house and a library not far away, whose contents I’m constantly bringing home. I’m one of the weird people who re-read and collect books I like and now I’m working on series on the Kindle, even though I have them in book form. Then I’ll never be without one. 🙂 If they were all about $4.99, I’d be buying a lot more but $12.99 is a bit much.

      As for as your opinion, it’s fine if it’s jaundiced, just so you’re not. 🙂


    • helenscribe says:

      Wonderful comment M.R. Hit’s me right in the heart. What you failed to mention was turning the blasted thing on and off. If you’ve got any kind of problem with your fingertips or nails, the contortions to turn it off are incredible. I’ve even had to ask complete strangers for help. If it’s not completely white-faced when you tuck it away for the night, it pops to life, zombie-like, to serve you yet another advertisement. I still use it, but not often, and then only in medical waiting-rooms where the alternatives are staring at the walls.

      • M. R. says:

        You’re 100% RIGHT, Helen! – I entirely forgot that bit! In fact, I can’t ever remember how to turn it on or off, and on the very few occasions of thinking to do so, have just sat there looking at it, wondering … Happily, a very dear friend has asked me if she may have it to give to a worthy cause, which fills me with joy!!!

      • helenscribe says:

        Just do it, M.R. It’s the right thing.

      • M. R. says:

        Am currently on your site, Helen, and went to The Book Depository to order your book.
        Why on earth don’t you have links?
        Oh!!!!! – I don’t either.

      • You two are cracking me up. Just enjoy reading, no matter what the source. And thanks for jumping in with your comments.

      • M. R. says:

        I wonder if she’s anywhere near as old and grumpy as I am …? [grin]

      • Why don’t you plan to come over for my 60th birthday bash on March 15 and then tell me how old you are! 🙂 Sometime in the next couple of years we’re planning a trip to New Zealand so perhaps we can meet somewhere. That would be so much fun.


      • M. R. says:

        Pfuh! – a mere child! I’m not shy about my age – I turned 70 last year. It does alarm me, but as I continue to wander about in jeans and sneakers and cap, and eat apples as I go, I have decided I shall not allow it to alarm me all that much! But travelling is over for me, Janet: I have osteoarthritis in the lumbar area, and have to sleep in a special bed. Besides, there’s no-one to look after Lui.
        However! – if you were to manage to get to Sidder-Knee, that would be a horse of a different colour!!!!

      • I love different colored/coloured horses, so we’ll see what we can do. 🙂

        As for the age, 60 sounds so much older than I feel that I’m not worrying about it. 🙂

      • M. R. says:

        Agreed: it’s the people we are, not the years we carry. And I wish I’d looked like you at 60. Horrible woman! [grin]

  7. mpejovic says:

    I personally don’t like reading on an e-reader. It’s not comfortable to hold, you constantly have to flip the pages, and staring at a screen just before I go to sleep is the last thing I want to do. But… I do understand the convenience, especially when going on a trip and not having to pack a bunch of books. As long as people actually read books one way or another, it’s a good thing.

    • I use mine almost exclusively when traveling or if I have a book on it that I really want to read right then and don’t have in print. My Kindle feels good in my hand and I have to flip pages in a book constantly, too. But either way is fine. As you said, that someone is reading is the key. Thanks for commenting. I’m enjoying the discussion.


  8. I could not have said it better! 🙂

  9. Jaspa says:

    I have to admit, I prefer the feel of a paper book. That said, since my publisher was forced to close after the sad passing of the owner, I’ve come to embrace e-publishing… at least until we find a new publisher for my Jaspa’s Journey novels! (from Rich, the fingertips behind all things Jaspa)