Monday, March 7, 2011

E-books - Devil or Angel?

The very first birthday present I can remember was a hard covered book. It was a Hardy Boys mystery, and the first hard covered book I ever had that was my own. To this day I remember the feel of the book, and the pages, and the sound it made the first time I opened it. And above all, I remember the smell. Each time I was to receive another Hardy Boys book, these would continue to be my first impression.

When I was 13, one of the presents I received was a gift certificate to Brentano's - a bookstore in Manhattan. These were the days before the big chain bookstores, and going in to Manhattan to go to a fancy bookstore was a big deal. I didn't know what kind of book I would come out with, but the thrill of going through the shelves, looking for that special selection that I would spend my gift certificate on was a joy in itself. I eventually found a volume of Sholem Aleichem stories - in a beautifully bound book - which became mine. I loved holding that book and all of the sensory thrills of my earlier Hardy Boys books were amplified in this piece of art.

Yes, I love the feel of a beautifully bound book, and appreciate it for what it is. So does that mean that I am one of those who regard e-books and their necessary readers to be the end of civilization as we know it? No!

I am proud to say that I am a Kindle owner and wouldn't give it up. I love the convenience of having a device which is lightweight and portable, from which I can read my choice of hundreds or thousands of books depending on my mood at the moment. When I finish a book on my Kindle and there is another book in the series, or a different book from that author that I want to read, I can purchase it immediately, on the spot, and be reading it right away. I don't have to wait until I can go to a brick and mortar bookstore, by which time I may have lost the desire to read said book - or simply forgotten about it.

And while most e-books are less expensive than their printed edition, there are also sources of free ebooks available on the web right now. Sites such as Project Gutenberg allow any e-book reader to download free books to put on their device. And you are not restricted to any particular company to buy books from, including the one from which you bought your device.

I love the fact that when I am traveling, I can have an entire assortment of books with me, all in one single device that hardly takes up any room in my suitcase or carry-on.

Does this mean that I no longer treasure printed books? By no means. For me, those beautifully bound books will always be something to be appreciated, but the Kindle takes the place of all of those cheap paperback books that I used to travel with. They have always been something to read to fill up some time for me, not in the same league of fine editions on my bookshelf. And I love to re-read many of those paperbacks, but can never find them when I want. My Kindle solves that problem - they are now always right at my fingertips.

So what do you think? Do you have an e-reader? If so, which one? If not, would you consider purchasing one? Why? Why not?

List of sites for free ebooks

Project Gutenberg
Baen Books
Smashwords (Kindle)
Barnes & Noble (Nook)

Do you have any to add to this list?


  1. I've had a Kindle for almost a year now and think it is the best thing since sliced bread! I love being able to carry in my purse over 1,000 books that I can read any time I want. Great for traveling or just waiting for a shop to open. Font size is important now that my eyes are nearing 60 - I find that paperbacks are more difficult to read with the smaller print. Plus you can eat and read at the same time without the pages flopping over!!!

  2. I'm a lover of real books too. Even cheap paperbacks. I'm still a bit torn about e-readers though. I love the idea of the convenience, portability etc, but right now I don't have the time to read to need one.

    Perhaps as the kids get older and I have more time to be able to spend reading then I might consider one. It would certainly make the pile of "to be read" books on my bedside table a lot smaller!

  3. I feel almost a sense of loss as books are slowly replaced by e-readers. IMHO nothing comes close to holding an actual book in your hands, the smell of ink on paper, the feel of the pages, the noise they make as you turn them. To me it is all part of the experience of reading that can't be replaced by words on a screen.

  4. Jo - as I said, I love a nice book, but to me, the paperbacks are simply about the story - and getting lost in it. I will never give up my collection of fine books or stop buying them, but when I just want to get lost in the story ... my Kindle is the best.