Monday, March 11, 2013

Electronic or Print?

Although it pains bookseller Luddites like myself to say it, it would seem that ebooks and ereaders are here to stay.  This is a reality most of us accepted years ago, and as such we have two lovely Kobo ereaders for sale at the store and and presently sell ebooks at our own store branded site.

Ebooks seem to be different from buying downloads of music online though, and people seem to be switching in part and not entirely.  I have also met some people who get really excited about their ereaders at first and then return to exclusively reading print books.  Then there are those who use their ereaders on vacation but typically prefer a print book for everyday reading.

I can honestly say that I use both an ereader and read print books.  I don't notice much of a difference until I switch back to a print book from the ereader.  You don't miss the bulk of the physical book, but you do miss the sensory experience.  The sensory experience of a physical book is just more full and rich than reading on an ereader.  I miss the way books smell.  The sterility of the ereader leaves me wanting more.

I have also recently realized that there are certain books that just work better as physical copies.  If I am using a book to work on a project for work, be it updating my business plan or writing a marketing plan, I just prefer a physical book.  It is much easier to flip back and forth, or highlight or underline, or put a post it note in a place I would like to refer back to.  I understand that these are all functionalities that ereaders have desperately tried to adopt, but something about them just falls short.  

There are also certain books, that having read them as physical copies, I cannot fathom trying to read as ebooks.  Books like David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest.  That book literally has footnotes with footnotes.  All that flipping back and forth in the text on an ereader would probably make me nauseous. 

Admittedly there are still some people who refuse to change to ereaders at all.  These are people who see the book more than just something to read.  It is something to be displayed proudly after completion.  I encounter these book objectifiers every day, and they run the gamut of ages and social classes.  And for those who want a library, I can't argue with you there.  Books are more than just stories, they are artwork, and I have seen some stunning examples of this.

What do you think?  How do you decide whether to read the physical or e-version of a book?  And do you prefer a tablet or ereader for your ebooks?  Or would you rather die than read an ebook?