Ok, confession time. Most of my book collection is electronic. Like, 60% or so.
Not exactly earth shattering right? A lot of people's reaction to this is fairly innocuous, most couldn't care less, but recently I got chatting to someone in a bookshop. The conversation was all very pleasant, until I mentioned that I owned a Kindle. With a look of alarm, she asked how often I actually used it. About 50/50 I answered. Her response?
"That's not reading."
Quite what I'd been doing up until then is apparently anyone's guess. Needless to say, that was the end of that conversation and another lesson about not talking to strangers. Something similar happened in my book group too, where looks of horror and awe were on display when I pulled out a Kindle instead of the book we were reading. Horror at the Kindle, awe at the fact the one I have is so ancient it's practically the e-reader equivalent of a first edition.
So, is this a commonly held belief among readers? I completely agree that there's nothing like reading a good, physical book. Holding a physical copy of a book you've waited what feels like forever for is something that cannot be substituted. Cover art can be a huge influence in what I decide to read. I have an entire Goodreads bookshelf dedicated to beautiful covers. But for me, there's plenty of room for my e-reader too. And here's why.
Let's be real, reading can be an expensive hobby. Physical copies of books can set you back upwards of £10 a pop, whereas e-books tend to be just a few pounds. There's nothing to stop you buying a physical copy later. Get it second hand, you'll probably pay less anyway. The cost issue gets worse when you're abroad too. In New Zealand, you have to pay import tax, meaning you end up paying something like nearly £15 for a mass market paperback.
My ereader is basically a library in my bag. And when I'm travelling that is an enormous plus! Space is at a premium in my backpack and books take up a lot of it. Starting a new book? You'd better hope you like it because that's all you're going to be reading if you venture off the beaten track. Being a YA fan, it's hard to find new books outside of cities or anywhere with big bookshops and hostel book swaps are pretty hit and miss.
I will confess, I've read some books I am not proud of and, call me a snob if you will, I don't particularly want to be seen in public reading them. You know the ones I mean. With a Kindle, I can read anything, anywhere. Even on a long haul flight where all of the overhead lights and tv screens were out down one side of the plane (beware of Vietnam Airlines!) thank to my handy Kindle cover with built in reading light.
I'm hugely impatient. Working in the digital industry, I'm used to getting access to what I need, when I need it. Instant access to anything, anywhere. Anticipation kills me and with an e-reader, I can bypass the wait. Books appear in my hand in seconds.
Support the indies
I hear a lot of online chatter that the flood of content to the book market now that self publishing is getting easier is leading to a decline in the quality of novels these days. I hear the same argument about music, graphic design, movies, pretty much any creative industry in fact. Regardless, it's so easy to support up and coming authors as a reader and for aspiring authors to get their work published now that digital publishing exists. The rubbish stuff sinks, the good stuff sticks around. And I think that can only be a good thing.
So, there's my case for my beloved Kindle.
Of course it's not all pros. E-readers are not pliable enough to sleep on, nor are they durable enough to throw in a fit of rage. Or in the case of one ill-fated Marian Keyes book, be tossed in to a canal in Amsterdam. You can't lend them and nobody's filling Instagram with pictures of beautiful Kindles (although that does give me an idea for a photo series!). But still, I love mine and felt moved to stand up in defense of the e-reader in the wake of all the anti-digital sentiment I've experienced lately.
What do you guys think? Do you prefer hard books or e-books? Or are you happy as long as you're reading in any format?