The other day I read an article (in Dutch) where someone contested the idea of the continuous existence of actual books made out of paper and a cover. He argued that eBooks will soon take over. Many newspapers and magazines are already disappearing and he claimed that it was just a matter of time until real books follow suit. Call me a puritan, a romantic or plain stupid, but I don’t think regular books will fade into oblivion any time soon. Let’s make a comparison between a real book and an eBook and find out why.
Let’s first have a look at the eBook. The eBook is light weight and easy to carry around. You can easily download your books onto the device and it will carry multiple books at the same time. If books predate 1900 you can get them for free and it apparently provides a similar reading experience overall to a regular book.
Regular books, with real pages to turn, have many qualities going for them though. First of all: the smell of books. If you like books you’ll know what you mean. Whether it’s new, second hand, a text book for your studies or a novel you pick up for fun: real books have this smell to them that your Kindle or w/e eBook reader you use will never have. Of course if you don’t like a bookish smell then eBooks are the way to go.
A paper book will give you a direct indication of how much you still have to read until you finish it. The weight and thickness of the book make for a certain anticipation, at least to me, as to how much time it will take to read and this adds to the excitement (or not if it’s an 800 page book and you have to read it within one week). It’s the thrill of turning a page and you know the book is good if you can’t stop reading want to go faster and faster.
I usually always browse through a book before reading it, and even continue to do so as I’m reading it, to see how the chapters are divided up or how many pages I have left before the chapter finishes. I’m sure you can do the same thing with an eBook, but I highly expect it to be less convenient. It’s again, the thrill, the anticipation, the excitement of coming closer to your goal: finishing the book and the satisfaction when you actually do so.
Another thing real books have going for them is the fact that they are printed on paper. I’m reading texts from a screen all day long already. I am hardly convinced that reading books from a screen is a good thing to do. I, for one, find reading from actual paper easier to do (especially with text books) as it is less tiring and makes for easy note taking and highlighting. I know eBook readers have a special lay out that makes it easier to read from a screen, but I still think that after a long day or purely for relaxation, your best bet is to pick up an actual book.
Finally I really like holding on to the things I pay for. When I use cold hard cash to buy something I also want to be able to hold it in my hands. That’s how you know you got your money’s worth in my opinion. One reason why I don’t like paying for any digital contents just yet, is because you’re not given anything tangible in return and lose all rights to the content even when you lose it due to a computer crash. When I buy a real book or a CD I will at least know it is still there unless my house burns down. The chance of a house burning down over a computer crash is slightly less likely to happen though.
Now, I don’t have any experience with eBooks on eReaders as I don’t have one. They look very convenient and I think if you are one of those people who reads multiple books at the same time it may be something to try out. I stick to one book at the time though and love all of the above about reading books in general. I guess it depends on how you read a book whether eBooks are for you. I have been tempted to look into eReaders and eBooks, but I have found it inconvenient, expensive (eBooks are sometimes more expensive than paper editions) and it is yet another device I would have to carry around that uses batteries and needs power. At least you can still read an actual book when there’s a power outage and that’s why I think real books are here to stay.
Which do you prefer? Real books or eBooks? Why?