Discussion – E Readers Vs Books

Do modern E Readers have a place in the decades old tradition of books?

I was recently lucky enough to be given a brand new E Reader as a gift. I’m clearly a very spoilt lady indeed as these things aren’t that cheap so I hear, and there quite sought after. I feel bad for saying then that my first thought when unwrapping the gift was a sense of betrayal to all of the books that I’ve read and loved and all of the books just waiting to opened and enjoyed. Surely a reading experience isn’t complete without the initial first handling of your chosen book? When you pick it up, weigh it in your hands, run your fingers along the spine and get your first taste for that book. They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover, maybe that should be don’t judge a book by it’s feel?

It’s true that the cold, hard metal of an E Reader case is a far cry from the soft, worn feeling one can experience from a second hand or passed down book. The feeling that someone else has held it and manipulated it to suit their touch. The feeling can transport you to someone else’s experience and the mind wanders thinking, who held this book before me? Where has it been? There’s something strangely impersonal then about the E Reader.

Books have been around for years and years and years! they’ve out seen countless generations, lived through historical events. Imagine a book shelf in world war one for example, when all of the chaos and destruction of such a tragedy destroys lives and buildings. And yet there are rare books that surpass these times and wait still now for a new owner to claim them. Can we really let metallic, hard technology replace the real paper and ink books? I had always thought no, and if someone had told me that I would read a story from one of these devices I would have laughed off the idea as preposterous. I must sound really old saying all of this, I’m actually only 25. But I’m a firm believer in books and I couldn’t bear the thought that their traditional form that has survived and thrived for years should suffer from the blow of technology!

That said the E Reader was a gift, a very generous gift that I felt compelled to at least give a go. I’ve just finished my first ever book on it, The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, in all honestly I chose this rather purposefully because the copy I was given was in hard back form. Therefore I felt the heavy, large form of the novel could be justifiably read on my electronic book, for ease of reading…I told myself.

Now I must confess that I ‘opened’ up the story rather reluctantly at first. Yet I must also admit that the experience, once I got used to the unusual feel, wasn’t so far removed from reading a normal novel. in fact the E Reader, with it’s compact size, held a slight a benefit over the usual form of a book, which can be heavy and laborious to carry around on long journeys. The device comes with many useful features, like the bookmark option where you can ‘fold down a page’ or a page finder where you can move along to the desired page. Off course it’s not as simple or natural as flicking the books pages until you see the folded down page or number that your looking for. In reality the electronic book can be a bit fiddly and I note a little smugly; some things just cannot be replaced.

This was my experience anyway. For me a book doesn’t start with this first word or finish with the last. It starts when you get yourself comfortable, peel back the first page and inhale the century old smell of paper and pages that have been thumbed and caressed from years of use and love. And, off course for me it ends when you finish the last page, and hopefully breath a sigh of content and hug your new book close to your chest.

Many may disagree and say that this new form of technology is a break through and something to be revered? Others may side more on the air of tradition and shone this device.

Me? Well nothing will ever replace books. The joy, the experience of reading a real book; its not replaceable. All of the technology in the world cant eradicate thousands of years of tradition. Will I use my new E Reader though? The answer is yes, sometimes. When I have a hardback that’s too heavy, or maybe when if I’m travelling or on holiday? There’s benefits to the device. I don’t want to cut my nose of to spite my face and all that. But will I favour this form to a normal novel? Never.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences regarding this discussion so please feel free to leave a comment.


5 thoughts on “Discussion – E Readers Vs Books

  1. They may say don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but you should. What else do you have? If reading a book is only about the words on the page they wouldn’t be nearly so fun, it’s about having and holding, and owning too. The problem with digital, for me atleast, is that you don’t feel you own it anywhere near as much.
    My prize books, the Absolute Sandman, are huge leather bound editions and are truly beautiful from first sight through to reading. And they look good on my shelf 🙂
    Overall i agree books are superior, but it depends what you are after. if you read a lot of books (2-3 a week) then this can stack up, you can go through a lot easier on a Kindle, and it takes up space.
    But even the people i know who love their kindles still buy the books they love. Books will never be replaced

  2. I agree with you Lou. I suppose we can’t deny that this is a great technological breakthough, however I feel it’s place is not in reading for pleasure. You mentioned you might make the most of it travelling? I completely disagree – surely the joy of a book is the lack of value? They can be happily left reserving a deck chair, be shared around groups of friends… this flexibility is completely lost when you have to constantly concern yourself with keeping watch of this expensive piece of electronic equipment.
    And what about all the times I have read my books in the rain at the tram stop? Not sure an e-reader would take to that too kindly…
    Don’t get me wrong – I think E-readers are a brilliant piece of engineering and highly valuable, but maybe their place lies in storing factual information – I can imagine as a student I would have found storing my textbooks on these very useful. But as far as ‘reading for pleasure’ is concerned… I’ll stick with my old fashioned paper books that I can collect thank you!
    Looking forward to hearing your views on ‘Room’ too!

  3. Thanks for the comments guys. It’s so good to hear that other readers also agree that books wont be replaced. I have to admit I’m a bit like you Michael, I like to own my books, I take a lot of pride in them. It’s really nice to hear that you have leather bound copiesof your favourite books.

    I notice that you see the pleasure of books is that they don’t have value Catherine. I think that’s a great way to look at it, sadly I’m greedy and like I said like my books were I can see them, proudly stacked on my bookshelf. So the E Reader kind of takes the joy out of it for me. There clearly are some benefits to the E Reader but I’m happy that people are still showing their loyalty to the good old paperback.

  4. Lou,

    My love for books was handed down from my good old Dad. When the Kindle first made it’s appearance, we both strongly opposed. Like you, I did an English degree at university and spent the best part of three years surrounded by the musty smell of old books in the local library. As time went by, a few of my Dad’s friends bought Kindles, and the idea grew on him. I bought him one for Christmas, and I don’t think he would go anywhere without it. He works in London at the moment – sometimes abroad – and so travelling with this conveniently light-weight and compact piece of never-endling literature is his chosen source of entertainment on trains, planes, etc.

    My Dad’s sister – My lovely Auntie Margaret – came to visit last weekend. She sadly didn’t bring any books with her to trade, which has become a tradition in recent years. She too now has a Kindle.

    Maybe it’s time I get with the twenty-first century and trade in my tatty books?

    P.S. … I’m glad I’m not the only one that loves the smell of that yellowed textured paper …

  5. Hi Holly, thanks for the comment it’s great to see a slightly different opinion on E Readers as most people so far have been strongly opposed to them. Whilst I still remain faithful to traditional books (I love the smell of yellowed paper also) I have found some Valuable conveniences in the E book. It’s great for travelling and for when you don’t want to lug a big book around. They definitely have their merits. All in all though I still prefer a real book. I often find myself reading proper books at home but taking the E reader with me for train journeys and the like.

    P.s. I note you say mentioned that your Aunty and you usually swap books, this is the other thing I do find frustrating with E readers, you can’t swap and pass a book on when your finished with it. Do you find this frustrating as well or have you found a way around it?

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