Oh the age old question. There are so many debates in the literary world. So many. You can debate until your voice runs out when it comes to books, and I have done that! With books in every genre, talking about virtually every issue…you can sit there and debate and debate and debate.
But one debate that has emerged over the last fews years, has been the result of the outpouring of electronic readers, or e-readers, like Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, Sony’s Kobo E-reader or the Ipad. And this is the debate of good ‘ol traditional books versus these sleek new devices.
And here’s the thing that makes me shake my head about all this is that…people get nasty when it comes to which side they prefer, especially Team Traditional Books. Usually Team E-readers aren’t too bad but wow, Team Traditional Books can get quite nasty. The arguments I’ve seen (mostly on Facebook because, come on, who argues in person anymore) can get pretty wild and heated.
And I’m going to say it right here: I have a Kindle Fire. And I own a TON of traditional hard copies of books.
And I like them both. I think they both have their strengths and weaknesses. But I do like them both.
And I’ll tell you why.
Traditional Books Vs. Ebooks
Okay, there is something absolutely satisfying in the smell and feel of a book. There is nothing really gainable about this except for the fact that I just enjoy it. I love the smell of a new book, and running my hands all over the crisp new cover that I’m going to destroy to pieces once I find out how much I love it. I love the smell of used books stores, the smell of old pages and I love finding a really great book for super cheap at a used book store. There is something really happy about holding a book in your hands.
But then let’s switch it on the other side. Books are heavy! They’re seriously heavy. I’m a little person, with pretty much nonexistent shoulders. I love my books but even an average size book in purse gets super heavy. And if I’m close to finishing a book, and ready to start a new one? I have to take two books along with me, often times in a backpack that’s already super full of textbooks and notebooks and all that fun stuff. I have back problems, I don’t like the idea of lugging around these books all the time. And have you seen books nowadays? I swear, they keep getting thicker, and longer and heavier. My Kindle Fire weighs less than a pound.
Regular good ‘ol books? Yeah, they don’t run out on battery. You never ever have to worry about being in the middle of a really good book and your screen going black. Obviously that would never happen with a traditional, hard copy of a book. You just keep turning the page. And there’s also the potential for technology malfunction. When The Mark of Athena came out last fall, I bought the Kindle edition and…about half way through the book, it just…malfunctioned. There was a glitch and I couldn’t go any further. I had to rush out to the bookstore to buy the book because I was HUGELY invested.
But there’s this serious convenience with the Kindle, Nook, Sony ereader, whatever. I have about 275 books on my Kindle Fire. (Please keep in mind that I have way more than this is actual hard copies). And I’m an extremely fast reader. If I have the time to, I can read a good one to two books a day. And I hate that feeling of finishing a book while I’m at someone else’s house or at work or school and not having another book to pick up. I like that I am able to finish a book and immediately start a new one because I have 250+ books at my disposal. I also am a big fan of the fact that I can download a brand new book at midnight (or even earlier). I downloaded Clockwork Princess at about ten PM and because I stay up late, was able to finish the book at about 3 am, hours before the bookstore would even open.
Having a Kindle and buying a digital copy of a book cuts out the booksellers, and cuts down profits for a lot of people. See, you can charge 25 dollars for a hard copy of book because it has to be distributed to different people: the author, the publisher, the publicist, the agent, the people who actually print the book, the artist, the bookseller. There is more money to distribute from an actual hard copy of book. But when you cut the price in half, from 20-25 dollars to 10-13 dollars for an ebook, you are getting less money for all those people. True, it doesn’t cost much to produce an ebook but still, less profit. And buying an ebook cuts out the bookseller and the actual printers of books. And we’ve all seen bookstores closing down. R.I.P. Borders (God, I loved that store).
Now, this point isn’t true for everyone. But for the most part, every single book that is on my Kindle is a book that I own in hard copy in real life. I bought a ton of ebooks so I could have them both in beautiful hard copy and in a copy that I can carry with me everywhere I go. Example: I purchased Clockwork Princess on my Kindle the night it came out because, well, I’ve been waiting for that book for a year and a half and I just couldn’t wait any longer. But I met Cassandra Clare a few days later, and bought an actual copy of the book for her to sign. That’s another thing I do a lot too. I will buy the ebook copy of it, but I have opportunities to meet authors quite often. I bought the entire Delirium series when I met Lauren Oliver, and I am planning on buying both Legend and Prodigy because I am meeting Marie Lu this weekend. I doubly support these authors by buying both. And I know quite a few people who do it as well.
They keep bookstores alive. Borders closed down their entire company and Barnes and Nobles recently announced they were going to start closing stores as well. You hardly ever see small bookstores, independent book stores still alive anymore. True, traditional books are more expensive, but the more we buy from these bookstores, the more likely they are to stay open. i wanted to cry when Borders closed and I was buying books there all the time. Plus there is the immediacy of being able to read the book right then and there. Most Kindles are wi-fi enabled and so if you want to buy a book, you need to make sure you’re able to connect to wi-fi. And true, more and more places have wi-fi nowadays but not everywhere does so there isn’t the immediacy all the time.
People say that ebooks are going to be the death of books. I understand how people can see this, again with the closing of all these bookstores. However, I do not believe thats so. People still prefer traditional books over ebooks. Most people I know will buy both a hard copy and a digital copy of a book. And I also think that the ebook is giving way to new authors. Getting a publicist and an agent, finding someone to love your book and print it and publish is both super hard and expensive. With this option to publish yourself now, you can get out there, and promote yourself. I know that Tammara Webber published her Between the Lines series all through ebook before she was able to publish “Easy” in hardcopy. It really gives people the chance to put themselves out there. And that is something that I can get behind.
Books are seriously durable and easily replaceable. And I’m really super hard on my books too. I show them some serious love. Often times I lose the cover jackets for my books, I fold over the pages, spill food and drink on them, bend the corners, you name it, I do it. And sometimes my books get a little *too* beat up. But its easy enough to replace them. I can drop them, step on them, and they’re going to be just fine. They may show a little wear and tear but they are going to look just fine. And if they get to that point of no return, I can pop down to the local bookstore and replace it for a decent price.
Yeah, the Kindle? Not as durable. And not as easily replaced either. If I step on it, or drop it, or LOSE it, or it gets stolen, or if I accidentally drop it in the water because I like reading while taking a bath, its done. Kaput. This is a piece of electronic technology and when it breaks, it breaks. It has the delicacy of a cell phone. And sure there are warranties and insurances that you can pay for but its still an issue. If my Kindle Fire goes kaput…well that’s just it then, isn’t it? My Kindle was a gift from my boyfriend and its a luxury that I appreciate but definitely cannot afford. If it dies, or something goes wrong with it, thats it and I’m done. And yes, most of the services used for these ereaders, like Kindle or Barnes and Noble, have a back-up memory for you, based on your membership with their service. I could buy a new Kindle, sign in with my Amazon account and re-download all the books that I have already purchased. But really, who wants to deal with that? Especially when a replacement Kindle, especially the tablet version, will cost me near 200 dollars…
Now I don’t know which one is better, which one is worse. I can’t say for sure that traditional books are going on a path to dying or that ebooks are the reason that so many bookstores are closing. I mean, there’s so many other factors that could be going into the fact that bookstores are closing. Maybe its the fact that the economy is terrible, and lots of stores are closing, not just bookstores. Maybe people can’t afford things as well as they used to be able to. I know that I can’t.
But whatever the reasons, I just don’t know. It makes me think of ipods and all that. People thought ipods and digital downloading would be the death of purchasing actual music. And I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it hasn’t taken its toll. But my boyfriend is a musican and a music lover the way I am a reader/writer and a book lover. And he has a ipod that is overflowing with music of all different genres, but I’ve never seen anyone in my life as passionate about buying records, collecting them and spending money on them. Have you ever been to the music floor at an Amoeba record store? Have you ever been around for Record Store Day? People still love the music, they buy that tangible thing.
And if people have the same passion for books that I do, they are going to continue buying books that way that I do.
And like I said, I like both. If there are more ways that I can read, then show me how. I love every single way to experience a book. Just like I know, when go to see a movie adaptation of a book, its not going to be the same but its a different experience. I have different reasons for loving my hard copy of a book and for loving my Kindle. Last night I finished re-reading Insurgent on my Kindle and today I am re-reading Abandon by Meg Cabot in hard copy form. I switch back and forth.
I have one final point to make about the whole ebooks vs. traditional books thing. One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the last few years, especially being in college, is how important reading really is. Reading is one of the best escapes that we have. Reading can teach us not only just how to be better readers but it can teach us about life., morals, lessons, goals, and so much more. Reading is one of the most important things that we can do.
So I kind of think: who cares how people read? Who cares if they read a hard copy of a book or a Kindle or if they’re reading on an Ipad or on their computer, or if its a magazine or in the form of a video game (I’m looking at you WonderBook), as long as they are reading. If we are all enjoying the same books and getting the same things out of them, then who cares how we are reading them? Does that really matter in the end?
Reading is reading. Reading is for enjoyment and reading is to teach us and to change us and to entertain us and inspire us and if they continue to do that, that is the most important thing.
And I’m not going to judge anyone based on how they read the books, as long as they keep reading. And keep reading this blog. That’s the more important part of it all ;)