Sunday, September 12, 2010

My take on ebooks vs. real books

Most anyone who has recently been within earshot of me (or able to read my Facebook or emails) knows that I have recently fallen in love - with the iPod touch. I may not be a very typical guy, but I do love my electronic stuff.

In addition to placing 6,417 songs in the palm of my hand, the iPod Touch serves another useful function - as an e-reader. (Never mind that I'm already an e-reader myself). I had been debating getting a Kindle or a Nook and was delighted to discover that the Touch can be either one. Versatile little device.

Now, some people consider ebooks an anathema. They just have to have that tactile experience. They have to feel the paper. And I can understand that. There's a romanticism to books.  Roger Ebert recently pointed out that you couldn't find money left inside an ebook - although I hasten to point out I've never so much as found $1 in a book. And who would be dumb enough to use money for a bookmark anyway?

Being the Libra that I am, I find myself straddling the fence on this issue. I think that those who decry e-readers wholesale are being a bit narrow-minded, because ebooks do have quite a few advantages.

The ebook advantage

You can carry several at once without requiring a visit to the chiropractor. - If you're feeling indecisive, your e-reader can give you a whole range of options. No more stuffing three or four books into your bag. And heck, even one big, fat volume, like, say, The Lord of The Rings, can be cumbersome to lug around. I just bought a great new movie book called George Lucas' Blockbusting, and it's a hefty tome, weighing in at 976 pages.

No more dog-ears or other damage: I tend to be a bit destructive with books. I'm one of those people who stresses out when I just bought a nice new paperback, then  I accidentally sit on it and put a big 'ol crease in the cover. Or sometimes I've been known to bring a book with me when I go out to eat. Then I'm goofy enough to try to read while I'm eating. and then I splatter food juice onto the pages. One time I was eating some chicken wings, and the sauce dripped onto a book that I had open and the pages got stuck together. With ebooks, all these worries evaporate. And  let me tell you, wing sauce sure doesn't.

Easy to research: I read mostly non-fiction, and with those, e-readers can be especially handy. If I want to know about a particular fact from Blockbusting, all I have to do is search for the phrase with my e-reader, and boom - it's right there.

No more losing bookmarks: I never buy nice bookmarks because I'm always losing the damn things. Instead, I rely on a random collection of receipts, expired membership cars or movie tickets. None of that anymore.

But, on the other page ....

The ebook disadvantage

Faulty fonts: I have discovered that certain ebooks don't read very well. I tried to read a copy of The Lovely Bones, but whoever imported it failed to notice that it didn't port over any quotation marks or apostrophes. Made it too hard to follow, so I gave up.

How can you READ this? There's no pictures: Yes, I know e-readers can have digital pictures, but the effect just isn't the same as it is on paper. Particularly if it's glossy, slick paper. One of my favorite Beatle books is a volume called Recording the Beatles, filled with all kinds of geeky technical info about recording equipment. It's a lavish book that costs about $100. Just look at the pages:

I defy any e-reader to look THAT snazzy.

Library loyalty: My first job was working in a library. There's something to be said for wandering among the stacks. 

Autograph hound:  I'm lucky enough to own four autographed books: One by Judy Garland authority John Fricke, one by film historian Leonard Maltin, one by TCM host Robert Osborne, and one by actress Janet Leigh. You can't really sign a Kindle, can you?

1 comment:

  1. As an author, the things I love about books are all the reasons why I will probably always buy print books. I love them, and heck, I wanna SIGN them some day. But I will likely only buy them for cozy home reading. I'd buy an electronic version to have with me when reading on the go.