The Problem With Ebooks

Eat Pray LoveForget the debates about format and whether or not their rise heralds the death of the physical book. I’ve realised the fundamental flaw with ebooks is that they drive sticky beaks like me mental.

It goes like this: As an avid reader and poacher of books, I’m perpetually on the lookout for my next acquisition. Public transport has traditionally been a place of inspiration, as I get to see what everyone’s reading and work out whether I want to read it myself.

Admittedly there’s also a bit of judgment thrown in with said checking out of books, and I’ve often been surprised as the titles people have unashamedly been reading in public.

I mean, Eat Pray Love/Vom, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, If I’m So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single?, and various other titles that cover relationship woes or suspicious health symptoms are best left on the bedside table.

But the advent of the eBook means that I can no longer easily tell what anyone’s reading and that I realised—as I found myself not-so-subtly leaning in to try to read the ink on the reader’s virtual page—I’m reduced to committing crazy-train-lady social faux pas.

Men Are From MarsFortunately, the person whose ereader I was leaning over didn’t look up. The book she was reading was apparently so incredibly absorbing she didn’t notice someone invading her personal space.

Frustratingly, I still don’t know which book it is—the snippets of text I caught didn’t give me any hints, and even those snippets were difficult to catch as her ereader of choice wasn’t backlit.

Possibly, though, others on the train noticed what I was up to and cast me into the crazy lady who reads over others’ shoulders. That or they think I’m a complete tight ass who doesn’t buy her own books and instead freeloads off others. Not altogether unfair judgments, really.

Of course, the upside to ereaders is that people can read otherwise embarrassing books about relationship heartache and suspicious, potentially communicable health issues.

I personally will be able to read the latest edition of Vampire Academy without having to almost do myself a contortion-related injury trying to conceal the soppy, Mills-and-Boon-meets-young-adult-fiction cover that draws both the eye and the you’re-reading-that incredulity…

If I'm So WonderfulI guess I should rephrase that opening statement to say that I’ve realised the fundamental flaw with others’ ebooks is that they drive sticky beaks like me mental.

It’s ok for me to conceal what I’m reading, but the fact that I can’t see your book cover means I absolutely have to know what’s being read. Do us a favour and tilt your screen a little so I can see the text without having to lean too far in, will you?

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Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.

One thought on “The Problem With Ebooks”

  1. I think ebooks have their place in society.

    Maybe not for mass market books, but for rarer long out of print (and copyright!) titles ebooks mean many rare and expensive books can become accessible to many more people for a low cost.

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