How’s that for a catchy title? It’s a bit inflammatory isn’t it? A little over-the-top? And actually, it’s not very accurate either. But I thought it made a great title for a blog post, so there you have it.
I’m not actually going to rant against eBooks, because… well… I don’t really have anything against them. What does it matter if you read eBooks or dead-tree books, so long as you read? But I am going to tell you about my relationship with eBooks — which is currently non-existent. That may well change in the future — but for the moment, I don’t read eBooks and I don’t have any intention of reading eBooks.
So why am I writing about them? As an author, people keep asking my opinion of them. Will they change the face of publishing? Will they result in the downfall of the bricks and mortar bookstore? Will people’s reading habits be changed forever? Am I worried? Do I care?
I can’t answer any of those questions. But what I can tell you about is why I don’t use eBooks.
Firstly, there is that whole ‘smell of books’ argument, that’s been written about a lot already. I like the feel of a book — the experience of turning the pages, touching the paper, and yes, the smell of a book, old or new. Reading, for me, is more than the words on the page — it’s the all-round experience of discovering a book, holding it in my hands, feeling the weight of it, touching the cover and turning its pages. And while I can’t deny that there is a certain experience to the eBook, my preference is for the dead-tree experience.
Secondly, I am rather attached to the old fashioned notion (and I acknowledge that in this digital age it is an extremely old fashioned notion) that when you pay for a product, you actually receive a physical product — something that you can touch and feel; something that has substance; something that has a physical presence. The idea of a book, sitting in digital form, on my computer or eBook reader or iPad, simply does not appeal.
It’s the same, for me, with music. Just because MP3s are available for purchase at the click of a mouse, I have not been inspired to stop collecting CDs (and, in case you’re interested in knowing, I still have a large collection of vinyl as well… yes, yes, I’m old and living in the past). Now, I don’t entirely shun new technology. I happen to love my iPod — I am totally enamoured with the ability to take my entire music collection with me wherever I go. But I do not buy MP3s. I buy CDs and then transfer them to MP3. When I purchase music, I like to have a physical product — a case, a booklet and a disc. And so it is with books.
Thirdly, there is the fact that I don’t have a great need to change the format of what I read. I work from home and I rarely use public transport — and when I do, carrying a book with me is not an inconvenience. In my current position in life (with a young family) I don’t do a huge amount of travelling. When I do travel, the trips are fairly short and one or two books are enough to take with me… and they don’t take up too much room.
Would things be different on longer trips? I’m not sure. Thinking back to the longer pre-children holidays, I didn’t need to bring many books. During a four-week trip to Egypt, I did hardly any reading. Days were spent sightseeing, and by the time evening came around I was too tired to read and would fall asleep. There was only a short period of relative non-activity — a three-day boat ride along the Nile. I read the one book I brought with me during that time — Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile. And then there was a four-week holiday in England. I brought two books with me and didn’t read either of them, because I was too busy reading the plethora of books that I bought during the trip.
Fourthly, if I drop a book into the bath it will get soggy, but after it dries, I’ll still be able to read it. 🙂
So… will I forever avoid reading eBooks? Find out tomorrow in my next post, entitled “In Defence of eBooks”.
Catch ya later, George
PS. Follow me on Twitter… in the digital world, where I promise you will not be able to touch or smell me. 😉