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Another Defense of E-Books

I found myself wandering through the book aisle in warehouse store the other day, beating down the all-too familiar urge to pick up every book and stroke it. You see, I have an addiction to books. I am addicted to buying them, holding them, smelling them, feeling the paper in my hands and turning their beautiful pages.

It's the reason people ask me how I can own an e-reader. Where's the romance? Where's the love of the book? they ask. You are murdering books and the publishing industry as we know it.

I've actually been told that. Ouch.

I think if you took one look at my "living room" (which has been transformed into our "library") anyone could tell I love me some tree-books. Although most of them were bought before I had a Nook (and a way to e-read), many have been bought after.

But standing in the store using all my will-power not to pick up yet another to add to my collection, I realized there is a difference between loving books, and loving reading.

I love them both.

I love the books - holding them and flipping through them and seeing the colors of the cover and being able to read the front and the back at practically the same time. The physical book is part of the enjoyment of reading.

But it is not everything.

Most of the enjoyment of reading itself comes from the story - one which can be read between covers, or on an electronic device, which, I admit, is also attractive to me. I love the smoothness of the plastic, the way the buttons click just so, the way the words change magically in front of my face as I "turn" pages. The touch screen I am addicted to.

The fact that I can read on an electronic device actually helps me keep engaged in the book, ironically. When reading with a tree-book, I find myself breaking away every now and then, checking my phone, my computer. I am torn between my two addictions.

But when I read on an e-reader, I feed them both at the same time. Subconsciously, my fingers are soothed by the clicking through the pages, and I don't feel the need to constantly check my emails and social media. I am more free to get lost in the story. And as strange as this sounds, I'm not alone. In the book, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distractions, the author Alan Jacobs says the same thing.

And when people like to point out that e-readers are going to be the death of books, I like to point to the iPod. Did that kill music? Indeed not! It's true that there are less physical music stores out there. The album is rare, tapes almost non-existant, and CDs probably dwindling. But music continues to thrive, more now than ever. By making music more portable, more immediately accessible, less expensive, consumers tend to buy and listen to more. More artists have the ability to get their voice out there to be heard.

The digitization of books is similar. E-readers allow e-books, and e-books allow more authors to have their shot at publication, allow more competition, which eventually I believe will lead to better quality. The people I know who use their electronic readers primarily, buy more books. They read more. They read far more than they used to read tree-books. They spend far more money on books than they did before.

Maybe people miss music stores, but I haven't heard many people moaning over it lately. People like being able to listen to entire albums online before buying, buying only the songs they love, downloading it immediately when they hear a song.

I don't know that physical book stores will go away in the same manner, but I think if they do, the transition will be long, and by then we'll be weaned enough that we don't miss them as much. We aren't there now, for sure. My own drooling in the grocery store aisle is testament to that. But I also can see a future where there are more books being published, more access to them, and less expense (to say nothing of less space required to keep them in my house!).

Change is rarely easy. Some of us will go kicking and screaming. And others... like a frog in boiling water we'll someday look around and say, "Wait a minute? When did this happen?" Luckily, we're not frogs, and we'll survive whatever comes just fine.


  1. Heidi Yantzi said...
    I think there's room for both.

    The iPod was good for music. I think eBooks can be good for reading. Bottom line: I love to read!

    But I really believe the publishing industry, like the music industry, is going through some painful changes. Yeah, some of us (me) resist change! I have to believe that decades from now we'll still be enjoying music and books in some form.

    I hope people are honourable to pay for it!
    Heidi Willis said...
    It's interesting to look back at the music industry. It certainly went through a painful growth time, but it's begun to really settle into its new state of being.

    Publishing is in a painful place now. It's nice to know it might feel much less in upheaval in a few years.

    There will always be people who will find the books and music for free. There always have been. But I think there will also always be people willing to pay.
    Erin Halm said...
    I like both too, Heidi, and I think there is room for both options. What I love about my e-reader is the convenience of it. I don´t even have to leave home to go shopping for the next book I want to read. I think it´s hard to compete with that.
    Elizabeth said...
    Beautiful your blog title and your posts.

    Stop by my blog if you like for an e-book giveaway and to see my Mailbox Monday and my newest review of THE WICKED WIVES.


    Steve Finnell said...
    you are invited to follow my blog
    dawn said...
    I just followed a link from Heidi the Hick's blog and I'm so happy to find this blog!
    Heidi Willis said...
    Welcome, Dawn! I'm afraid we aren't very active on here anymore. Heidi the Hick and I still keep active personal blogs, though, and those links are on the side. Hopefully you can get something from the past posts here as well. :)

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