Reading books vs. eBooks

About nine months ago I did something I never thought I’d do, and I mean never: I started reading eBooks. Since then I’ve read 22 novels and 98 short stories in eBook format…and 2 paper books.

They have their advantages. For one thing they take up a lot less room. This is coming from someone with 6 bookcases full of books — (far) too many, and frankly too many possessions has started to feel like a burden to me over the last few years as I’ve become more “minimalist.” It makes it harder to remain mobile and I’d rather have money in the bank than a lot of stuff that feels burdensome.

I’ve downloaded over 5,000 eBooks (which easily fit on a $5 thumb drive two times over). I can duplicate the whole collection and safely store it somewhere else in a matter of minutes — try that with 5,000 paper books. Most are in the public domain and were free on Gutenberg.org, and while it’s true that most eBooks cost more than _used_ paper books, that depends on where you get your eBooks [cough, ahem, cough.]  I don’t advocate piracy necessarily, but I’ve been able to find a lot of stuff online that I could never afford or just isn’t available, even if it is old enough to be public domain.

Another advantage is the opportunities ebooks bring. I’m able to find a lot of obscure things like old pulp magazine stories which would be virtually impossible to find in print form outside of some anthologies. The same goes for anything obscure, like old novels which never gained “classic” status. Plus, I can find books online, download and start reading them immediately rather than waiting for a mail shipment. (Of course, there’s no bookstores left near me.)

Something as simple as not needing to hold a book open, or turn pages, or reach for a pencil to make notes is a BIG advantage for someone like me who will read for 8+ hours some days. When I want to add notes or summarize a chapter, or mark something especially interesting I put a symbol beside my notes and to find them later I just do a Ctrl+F search for the symbol. Try doing that with an 800 page paper book. That’s a real task.

There’s other little advantages too. I like to play around with the fonts — sometimes if I’m reading a hard-boiled pulp story, I will change the text to something like old fashioned newspaper text you might expect to see in a 50’s pulp novel. Sometimes I like larger font, sometimes smaller.

The only bad thing about eBooks is that I’m using it on a device where I have the distraction of the internet. Real books don’t need to be charged or plugged in.

Despite my love for eBooks, I have no intention of actually buying an eReader. I just put my book in MS Word in full screen and make the background gray or brown to cut down in eyestrain. In fact I think I prefer the laptop to most eReaders I’ve used because I can back up my books myself, they’re in an easily manipulated, non-DRM format, and I don’t have to use a terrible on-screen keyboard if I want to make notes.

I have to say, I do worry about the future of real, paper books when even I have started using eBooks. When even I have started reading eBooks, that’s saying something.

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