I’m no big fan of e-readers (as you can probably tell if you’ve read some of my former posts). I never have been, and never will be. While I do own one, I’ve never quite been comfortable with using it the way I am with printed, bound works. With that in mind, here’s my list of good and bad things about e-books. Feel free to mention if I missed any features, positive or negative, in the comment area below.
Probably the biggest reason people get e-readers, like so many other electronic devices, is because of convenience. Being a relatively small tablet (depending on which model you get, I suppose), it’s easy to carry just about everywhere. This opens up space on bookshelves and in your backpack for other things and puts an end to that nagging question of which book you should bring along to read during your lunch break today: When your whole library’s stored in a few micrometers of silicon, just bring them all!
In addition to saving space, e-books also save resources such as paper, ink, and binding materials, making them a very eco-friendly device.
Who needs a booklight when your book is the light? This makes reading in dark or badly lit places much easier than it would be if you had to hold the book open with one hand and hold a flashlight in the other.
4) Book Price
E-book prices can vary widely depending on how successful a title and/or its author are, but are generally lower than those for print books, at least in the “New” category. This makes sense, as there is less material going into each book, though it can raise some questions as to how much value one places on the author’s work itself. In other words, which is more valuable: the writer’s ideas, or the materials used to print them?
1) Energy Use
While it’s true that regular books use a lot more in material resources, in energy usage they’re technically superior: It takes one burst of energy from the printing press to make a hundred copies of a book in just seconds, and that’s it. E-readers, on the other hand, have to be charged, and you can therefore use more electricity reading one book than it would take to manufacture a hundred (depending on book length and reading speed, of course).
Like other technology, e-readers can be a pricey initial investment (again, depending on which model you get). A single book, unless very rare and/or antique, is probably not going to cost nearly as much as a high-end e-reader. This could make buying one a little less attractive, especially to those who don’t do much reading in the first place.
While the size can be a boon, as noted before, it can also be a serious pitfall. Small devices are extremely prone to being broken, stolen, or just plain lost, which in this case is particularly bad: If your e-reader goes away, so does the entire library you’ve invested in.
4) Lack of Retention
It’s been my experience (and that of a few others I’ve met) that reading things off a screen does not lend itself to remembering as well as reading it off a printed page. I’m not sure why it is, but I would guess it has something to do with actual interaction with a physical object. Either way, I’ve discovered that when I edit a book on the computer, then print it off and read through it again, I inevitably have to go back and correct things I missed.
5) Just Not the ‘Real Thing’
This may be dismissed as silly sentimentality by some, but I and many like me feel quite the same way. Words on a screen aren’t a book: they’re words on a screen. A book is supposed to have a certain aesthetic (look, smell, texture, etc.), and it’s something an electronically generated image just can’t provide.
So, there you have it. Be sure to return for next week’s post on the pros and cons of making books into films.