In praise of ereaders


For those of you that would rather read things on screens than on paper, that says: To preface this post, I should let you know that even though I have an ereader, I still prefer to read things on paper. It could just be a matter of me not being used to it yet, but I find it hard to focus on a screen. For work, I often print out cases to read and take notes on and do drafts by hand. Even this post began in a notebook.

Apparently there is some sort of culture war between those who read on ereaders and those who read paper books. I’ve been reading a lot about it lately as it has to do with the release of the Stephen King book and how this book must be experienced in a certain way. Or something. You can read more about it here, here, and here.

I don’t know. I don’t get the reasoning. But apparently, other people do. And boy does it make them angry when they think about this book, or any book, as pixels on a screen rather than ink on a page. Even though it’s the same words telling the same story. I think this represents nothing more than a fear of change or technology and elitism. Like always, I don’t appreciate being told what to do. And I especially don’t like being told how to do it.

So even though it is my personal opinion to prefer paper books, I do love my ereader and am excited about the future of ebooks.

First, it’s just practical. Look at my bookshelf:


bookshelf/kid’s art supplies and games. Yeah, this one is a mess. I bet every reader has at least one bookshelf like this in her home.

This is one of many (though all others are more tidy). And I don’t even read as much as most people I know. I’ve had to move 5 times in the last 6 years. As I’m sure you can imagine, carrying a lot of books was a pain. Books take up a lot of space. On shelves and in moving vans.

And in suitcases. I fly a fair amount, sometimes on 13 hour flights. It’s much more convenient for me to bring my nook with as many books as I want than to carry however many books I think I’ll need to entertain myself on my flight and my vacation.

And I can’t forget the time I had to evacuate from my home and was missing my favorite books for several months. If I had an ereader then, maybe that wouldn’t have happened.

More significantly, I am in awe of the way epublishing has exposed us to books we may not have read. Project Gutenburg has made many books in the public domain available–ie, the classics–for free to anyone with an internet connection. And of course, most people would say it’s easier to read on an ereader than a computer. When I first got my nook, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on ebooks (I had already spent a chunk of change on the ereader and didn’t know if I’d like it), so I downloaded a bunch of things off of Project Gutenburg. And I found I’m more willing to try a new book if it’s free than if it’s $7.99 or whatever Barnes and Noble charges for their classics.

Ereaders have also promoted self-publishing in a way that was not possible before. I feel like few things embody the spirit of our right to free speech than the ease of self-publishing. That there is allegedly a lot of crap out there does not change how I feel. The cure for bad speech, now and always, is more speech.

So even though I personally prefer paper to ereaders, I can’t understand the arguments against them. They sound more like elitism–wanting to make the classics available to those who have the space and money for more books and only giving a voice to a select few–and fear of change than any valid criticism that should be given any credence.

As readers, shouldn’t we be promoting reading? This should apply to the substance, not merely the medium.


About emmawolf

I'm a freelance writer living in Baltimore with my husband, son, and two cats. I'm working on editing my first novel. I love reading, traveling, and the cello.
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15 Responses to In praise of ereaders

  1. Muriel says:

    I agree. I personally love my Kindle and stealthily recycle any physical books I receive as gifts and by them for Kindle instead, and I think if I have to listen to one more person sneering at the lack of haptics and smell in an e-reader, I’m gonna punch them.
    Because, sometimes, the cure for bad speech is more punching.

    • emmawolf says:

      My husband knows someone who was trying to make something like a smell printer for the computer. Maybe he can develop it for an ereader so it makes a paper smell to shut all those people up.

      “stealthily recycle any physical books I receive as gifts and by them for Kindle instead”

      I really like that idea. One of the reasons why I bought my ereader was because I had lent books (that I really liked! It was the whole Hunger Games series) to a friend and she never returned it. And I just thought, that’s it. Never again! Anyway, she subsequently returned the books, so now I had two copies of all of them: ebooks and paper books. My mom knew two girls whose house burned down in a fire, so I gave them the books.

      • Muriel says:

        Hunger Games, yes. One of my strangest reading experiences ever. I started it expecting a second Twilight and hoping to get one or two decent rants for my blog out of it, but I didn’t need to read more than a few pages to realize this was no Twilight. I actually enjoyed the book, to the point that I even bought tickets for the movie, but I never even considered buyung the other ones. I don’t want to. I don’t care. I’m done with The Hunger Games.
        Confusing, that.

        • emmawolf says:

          I read them when I was high on vicodin, so that may have tainted my opinion. I think I can see how one can enjoy the book but still be done with it after the first. I think that’s how I feel about Game of Thrones…which I also read when I was high on vicodin.

          • Muriel says:

            Which is inexcusable.

            • emmawolf says:

              Which part? The vicodin or giving up on GoT?

              • Muriel says:

                The latter. I haven’t read vicodin, so I have no opinion on that. (Since I’m not a native speaker, and you know this, I should maybe explain that I know what vicodin is and am merely trying to make a very feeble joke.)

            • emmawolf says:

              I want to like GoT. I should like it. I like similar things. But we’ve talked about it before. The misogyny really gets to me. (Theon sticking his hand down his sister’s pants was the breaking point for the show for me.) I really wish I could enjoy it, but I just can’t. 😦

              • Muriel says:

                Well, who knows, maybe you’re just ahead of me. I’m not sure how much hype and fandom I can stand until I start hating the series.

  2. Ooh, look at your pretty blog redesign! I love it!

    I didn’t even think of it as elitism, but you’re totally right. Ereaders provide access to all; paper books are only access to some.

    I’m out of room for paper books here. It’s gotten to the point where even the stacks upon stacks are looking at me like I’m crazy when I try to add one more. My Kindle’s been a blessing, storage-wise. Otherwise, I think I’d have to move to a new place just for book storage, and that’s foolish. (That’s foolish, right? Yes. Yes, it is. *dreams of a new place with built-in bookshelves*)

    • emmawolf says:

      ” Ereaders provide access to all; paper books are only access to some.”

      When I was writing this, I was also thinking about libraries. Libraries obviously provide access to all. Getting books from libraries will also solve some space problems. But as pro-library as I am, I don’t think libraries should be the only answer. They often have funding or (God forbid) censorship problems, so I don’t think we should rely on them…if that makes any sense. I think they should be a supplement to our books, not our only source.

      The bookshelves that I took a picture of are built-ins!!!! At least, we thought they were when we bought the house. But it’s actually an entertainment center or something added by a previous owner. And the really weird thing is that they built it over a window. That’s right, the previous owner blocked a window with a TV. I think that’s pretty weird. So now we’re not quite sure what to do with the bookshelves (which is why they are such a mess). Do we tear them down and have another window, or do we leave them because (sort of) built-ins!!!!?

  3. sj says:

    You already know my feelings on this. 😛

    I agree with Muriel. MORE PUNCHING!

  4. Pingback: Newsday Tuesday | Books and Bowel Movements

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