wilderthan: ((Yuffie) Whoa)
[personal profile] wilderthan
I have a confession to make.

I have, so far in my life, owned two dedicated ereaders and three other devices capable of reading electronic books.

It really irks me that that feels like a confession. It isn't any one post -- some posts critical of ereaders make very good points, for example Seanan McGuire's Across the digital divide -- but the whole culture of sneering at ereaders. Like they're not the "proper" way to read, like a real fan wouldn't use them -- I remember Catherynne Valente saying on twitter (I apologise for linking to something so hideously inaccessible, you might have to highlight her text to read it) that she wouldn't use her Kindle for anything she cares about, and there's always Sherman Alexie's reactions:

Book reading is a tactile process—one can see, feel, smell, hear, and taste a book—but a digital reader is rather sterile. A friend of mine said, “Reading a digital book is like masturbating with a condom on.”


It suddenly strikes me as a funny thing that I've never heard someone speak like this about audiobooks. They're a whole different format, too -- they don't have that new book smell, you can't skim your fingertips over the pages, you can't bend the spine or leave your mark on them.

Anyway. I really just like nifty new technology, and books. That's why I tried out all the apps for ereading I could find on my iPod Touch, and why I bought a Sony Pocket Reader (just before the price sharply fell, naturally, damn it) back in my second year of university. It's why I now own a Kindle. It's convenient for me: I can carry as many books as I like with me when I travel, instead of picking three or four paperbacks and not being able to stuff them all in my backpack (and unfortunately, having finished half of them before I've even arrived at my destination). I can read in bed more comfortably: I wear glasses and don't like to lie on my back, so it used to be awkward.

I just caught myself before beginning an impassioned defence of how I still buy dead tree editions, honest! Because sorry, it's none of your business what edition I buy the damn book in. When I was younger, people would yell at me for buying the mass market paperback because it'd kill the market for hardbacks. It doesn't look to have happened yet, kids.

You are honestly not going to get anywhere by shaming people who like their ereaders. Or being snobby at them. Your shiny hardback with a pristine dustcover, your paperback tattered with the love of fifteen years -- they don't make you better than me.

I mean, look, guys. I'm a synaesthete. I see, feel, smell, hear, and most especially taste books, in ways a non-synaesthete will never understand. I think you're missing out. But I don't pretend people with synaesthesia are the only ones who can "truly" experience a book as it's "meant" to be experienced. (Granted, there's a difference between something hardwired into me and a different format. But the sensory aspect of print books can be compared, I think, to my sensory experience of any format.)

I also have a very personal reason -- another of these arguments from emotion, I'm afraid -- to love ebooks, and that's that I can still share the love of reading with my mother. Without ereaders, she'd be unable to read even books with fairly large print, even with her glasses on. But thanks to the wonders of technology, I can finish a book and tell my mother all about it, without the awkward moment of realising I can't lend her it, because the text is too small.

I also love that I've given my older ereader, the Sony, to my girlfriend, and now I can share more books with her. It was a bit awkward boxing up six or more books to post to Belgium every few months -- the costs really get prohibitive at that point.

But. I don't think anyone needs any special reason. If you've got the spare cash to drop on an ereader, go try one out in the store or borrow one from a friend, and give it a try. Think about it until your next paycheck, and if your gut isn't saying no, go for it. I don't think you'll regret it. (This is exactly the strategy I adopted, anyway, except insert "installment of student loan" for paycheck.)

This isn't a rebuttal of any particular one of the posts out there. I love print books; I love electronic books. I want to talk to people about reading without feeling like I have to hide the fact that I read it on an ereader. It's just one choice of several.

There are, obviously, concerns when it comes to ebooks. Piracy, DRM, proprietary formats, the digital divide... For the most part, these are arguments about the market, about new technology. Stop dragging nostalgia into these arguments and have them cleanly and clearly. If you're talking about your objections to DRM, it isn't about the smell of the pages, it's about ownership of what you read. If you want to save the libraries, your biggest opponent is the recession and budget cuts, not people who are perfectly happy to buy books for their digital device -- they probably weren't going to use the libraries anyway, or if they did, then they probably still will.

And you know, if your emotional connection to print books is so great that you can't give them up, that's great. Nobody is asking you to. I just brought well over a hundred print books to my student house, to make me feel at home, including my battered copy of The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper). I love my Kindle, but I can't give up my collections of the poetry of Pablo Neruda and Dylan Thomas (and get this -- I can't say it enough -- no one is asking me to!). I get it. I really do.

Quit making me feel like I am single-handedly sneaking into your personal libraries and setting them all on fire.

via network

Date: 2011-09-26 11:37 am (UTC)
cafeshree: woman sitting on chair reading a book (Default)
From: [personal profile] cafeshree
Hi, reading this through my network, and I agree with you. I love my ereader, it makes reading in bed and traveling and reading while eating so much easier. I still love paper books, though I've only ever bought paperbacks, I find hardcovers hard to read. Frankly, I don't want to be smelling a book and I don't get anymore enjoyment from a book if I'm holding it as paper. For me it's all about the story not the format.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-26 08:45 pm (UTC)
sweet_sparrow: Miaka (Fushigi Yûgi) looking very happy. (Fond of Books)
From: [personal profile] sweet_sparrow
Inspired by your post, I decided to make a list of reasons why I like print books and ebooks as well as a list of reasons why I don't like them. (I didn't post it anywhere, by the by, in case you wonder where it is.) The result was... interesting.

In a way it didn't teach me anything new. I know I like ebooks and print books for different reasons, but it was interesting to see laid out for me in how far those likes and dislikes mirrored each other. Mostly, what I liked about one edition was an aspect that I didn't like about the other. I wasn't expecting as much overlap as I got. For me, the two formats compliment one another and I like both for different reasons.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-26 10:06 pm (UTC)
abbylee: (Default)
From: [personal profile] abbylee
(Here via friend's link.)

My current home library, sadly culled for a cross-country move, is now almost four (six shelf) bookcases. I love physical books. But, man, I love my ereader for so many of the reasons you listed. Plus one more: it has made accessing my public library much easier. I still go in, because I love the building, but carrying books and worrying about late-fees made it a lot harder to enjoy browsing. Now, I can spend my time there, and take out books, but I also can do a fair bit right from my computer/mobile device. I take out library books from my bed, from the park, from the bus, and they automatically expire so I don't have to worry about carrying them on a bad day or about late fees. (I actually do mourn that; late fees must be good for libraries. But I've donated to mine in the past and I want to start doing directed donations for ebooks now.)

Reading on an ereader and reading a physical book are completely different experiences. For most books, where I read them lineally, the ereader is best because it's easier to hold and has adjustable font sizes. For other books, where I'm continually wanting to flip back and forth, a paper book is what I crave. But, hey, I also preferred all my parents records over friends' tapes, because as much as they provided a convenience for portability, I liked being able to drop the needle exactly where I wanted it. And these days, the mainstream choices are CDs and digital downloads. Everything is always a tradeoff, so why shouldn't we all get to pick the tradeoff that works best for us?

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-26 11:07 pm (UTC)
recessional: a small blue-paisley teapot with a blue mug (Default)
From: [personal profile] recessional

It suddenly strikes me as a funny thing that I've never heard someone speak like this about audiobooks. They're a whole different format, too -- they don't have that new book smell, you can't skim your fingertips over the pages, you can't bend the spine or leave your mark on them.


No, but they replace the tactile and scent experience with an aural one - they're SUCH a huge change of format that it's almost not applicable (and I know plenty of people who hate audiobooks, and others who simply can't parse them), whereas an eReader is a different form of the same basic experience (using your eyes to derive meaning from set visual symbols).

I have absolutely no horse in the digi-vs-paper thing, and entirely agree that people bring a silly amount of unscrutinized knee-jerk emotion to the arguments; that bit just stuck out to me.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-27 07:26 am (UTC)
jack_of_none: ([JSMN] Rare Books)
From: [personal profile] jack_of_none
I actually answer questions about e-readers at my job these days, and I swear, the most common question I get is "But what about the smell of books?" I feel like there's this kind of...almost cult-ish devotion that people have towards physical books that isn't really grounded in reality. I mean, yeah, some books have a really pleasant smell, but most of them don't smell at all, or just plain smell awful. I've noticed people will freak out at the slightest mention of throwing out or recycling a book in any way -- some libraries have to get rid of long-unused and damaged books under cover of darkness because the public backlash is so severe. This kind of devotion to physical books as an abstract concept comes off as really snobby to me -- instead of embracing the fact that a variety of formats that make reading even more accessible, they want to make reading and book-ownership out to be an exclusive club where only certain people are getting the "real" experience.

Print books have a lot of advantages, but so do e-books. Despite panicking and condescension on both sides I don't see either format driving the other out of existence.

I love ebooks, but I also really love print books. I'm a big fan of art-y bookbinding and things like that. A lot of the rapturous talk about print books seems...insincere, I guess? Not actually about the books at all, at the end of the day.

IDK, my thoughts on this issue are complicated.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-27 07:46 pm (UTC)
jack_of_none: ([JSMN] Rare Books)
From: [personal profile] jack_of_none
No, I totally get the thing about print books. I've just...I collect nice books myself and I've been around people who LOVE books, in every way -- the physical object and the content within -- and the way they talk about their books does not at all sound like that Sherman Alexie quote. That's not a comment that tells me about the benefits of print and the experience of reading a physical book, it's about how everyone else is doing it wrong. It's anti-ebook, not pro-print.

I guess what I mean to say is that I understand being in love with physical books. What I don't understand is being angry or snotty about the reading choices of other people, since that doesn't impact you at all. That's not about love for books, it's about wanting to feel superior. That's why it sounds insincere to me.

It's especially icky because honestly? Like you mentioned in your post, one of the biggest demographics for ebooks are people with visual difficulties, because it's so easy to make the font bigger. I get people buying them for their older relatives all the time, and I really don't like the insinuation that this new technology that helps some people to read the books they want is inferior and killing REAL reading.

IDK, I have a lot of feelings. On the one hand I resent a lot of the ebook evangelists trying to sound the death knell of print every five minutes, but on the other hand defensive anti-digital folks are REALLY not helping.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-09-27 06:29 pm (UTC)
trialia: River Song (Alex Kingston) drinking a cup of coffee. (Default)
From: [personal profile] trialia
Thank you. This particular form of snobbery makes me angry, because in a way it's also rather ableist - e-books are far more accessible, in many ways, to someone with a disability like my own than print books can be. Not only can you change the print size and often the contrast and brightness of the text against the background, you don't have to have the manual dexterity necessary to turn individual pages when you're using an e-reader. They're more accessible to me and it makes me so angry that people try to shame me, basically for that! *fumes*

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