I’ve been opposed to the idea of e-books ever since I learned of their existence in a pdf format way before e-readers were a common sight on the Tube.
I’ve been opposed to the idea of e-books ever since I learned of their existence in a pdf format way before e-readers were a common sight on the Tube. I wasn’t a big fan of audio books either, mainly because one of my favourite things about reading a story is making it your story. Having someone read a book to me, even one I loved and almost knew by heart, was something I started avoiding as soon as I could read. There was only one notable exception: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens on vinyl, which still is an amazing way to start the Christmas holiday.
‘Real’ books have been part of my life ever since I can remember. Both my grandmother’s flat and my parents’ house had huge bookcases with shelves and shelves of books, from cheesy romances, to adventure epics and encyclopedias. When I lived at my grandmother’s place, the bookcase was in my room, and it provided me with days of entertainment. When she finally asked me to help her redecorate and we had to move it, I couldn’t bring myself to throw away any of the books. I relocated them into three separate places, and kept most of them on display throughout the house.
A house without books is not a home. They can show visitors more about your personality than hours of conversation, and they will basically force you to open one or at least flick through them occasionally. My attachment to real-life, hard copy made me very sceptical of e-books and e-readers. How can you get the same reading experience without holding a real book in your hands?
My main argument against e-books was linked to the technology used. Before easily accessible e-readers came along, the only way of reading them was on the computer, and even the most tech-obsessed people have admitted to getting headaches after a while. And it’s never a good thing if you must stop reading because your eyes just can’t take it anymore. But the Amazon Kindle came along, and unlike the iPad, it spares us the issue of screen brightness. My boyfriend bought one, and I found myself borrowing it more and more often.
What I liked about the Kindle was the obvious advantage of size and weight when it came to travelling. I’m a commuter and as much as I would love to read on the train every day, the idea of having to carry another heavy item in my bag puts me off. With the Kindle, I could have not one, but hundreds of books in my bag at the same time.
And thanks to Amazon, I could read some of the world’s classic literature masterpieces for free. Aside from the new bestsellers and most books you can name off the top of your head, the e-book library for Kindles comes with a certain number of free books. Needless to say, as a poor student who can’t survive off literature alone, I found this a very compelling feature. The e-reader also lets you highlight passages and make your own notes on the text without that feeling of defacing someone’s work I used to get with hard copy.
Its battery also lasts for ages, so you could easily take it on holiday without having to worry. If you read a lot, you may want to also take the charger just in case. Having to stop half-way through a thrilling scene because your screen went blank and the battery light is flashing is probably as annoying as last decade’s headaches.
There are more and more e-readers and e-book libraries out there, and if you’re an avid reader who enjoys books on their way to work and back, or who loves to take long holidays, you should consider purchasing one. Of course nothing can replace the heart-warming feeling of turning the page or sharing a book with a family member, but at least for practical reasons, e-books are giving the real thing a run for their money.
Self-publishing is also something to keep an eye on. It may lower writing standards, as more and more people will be able to put their work out there without too much effort and proper editing. Or it may have the opposite effect: the competition will result in amazing literature, and the cheaper prices will convince more people to take up the hobby of reading.
In the end, e-books can only replace text. Beautifully illustrated books will always look better in print, and perhaps by assimilating most text-only books, e-readers will bring the spotlight back on beautiful books – the ones you want to put on your coffee table for your guests to look at. It is too early to tell what the true impact of e-books will be on literature, but don’t know it until you’ve tried it.