Now I know that in recent years this topic has been debated back and forth endlessly, usually under the topic of ‘traditional books versus eBooks’, but for me personally, that’s too general a definition. What I more commonly ask myself is,
“Do I feel like picking up a book, or a machine?”
Electronic devices are wonderful these days. I love my iPhone, my Mac Book Pro laptop computer, and my iMac (desktop). Yes, I’m a Mac fan, but I never got into the iPod craze. Why? Because it was a portable machine that required wearing earplugs or alternatively listening to a tiny, metallic-sounding ‘copy’ of music.
When I listen to music, I prefer a home stereo that pumps out great-sounding music with the feel of the bass hitting me right in the chest. There’s no ‘vibe’ in an iPod, or at least not one comparable to that of traditional speakers. Also, I don’t want to be holding something or to be tethered to some electronic device when I listen to music, because I want to be free to dance. That’s the whole point of music, to inspire us to dance, to move, to groove, to do what comes naturally.
I never enjoyed cassettes – the sound quality wasn’t as good, and then there were the times that the actual cassette tape ‘ribbon’ would get tangled up in the cassette player. I was thrilled when Compact Discs came along with their far superior sound and a physical design which was much more hardy and durable.
The point is that I am not against technology or electronic devices. I just want the full experience of whatever medium I am enjoying. If it’s music, then I want to hear and feel the music coming from a great sounding music system without the use of headphones or earplugs. The same goes for movies: I want to view a film on a large screen, with good sound, preferably surround-sound, just like in the cinema. The viewing experience is so much more enhanced under those conditions. And of course when I read a book, I want to be able to pick up a book, feel its texture, it’s weight in my hands; I want to be able to smell the print on the paper, and to be able to flick through pages, back and forth when necessary. I don’t get that same experience when holding an electronic device and reading digitalized words on the screen. These days the technology has improved so that eye strain is minimal, but it’s still not the same as looking at print on paper. Besides, what happens when the battery runs out on your Kindle or iPad? Unless you have a spare battery handy, the screen goes black and your reading experience comes to an abrupt halt. Books simply don’t have that problem.
Despite recent advances made in electronic eBook readers, the technology is still akin to musical cassettes, in my opinion. I’m waiting for the ‘CD version’ of readers, figuratively speaking. When electronic reading devices come in a leather-bound case or at least something similar to the feel of a traditional book, when the font more closely resembles printed words on paper, when they can allow one to flick pages back and forth more easily, when they are impervious to water and heat (inside a car in summer for example, or left outside on a chair under a tree), and when the devices themselves aren’t so irritating to interact with, then I will consider reading an eBook.
Besides, one has to consider the cost of an electronic reading device. An eBook reader (including Mac’s iPad) can cost anything from $80 to $1,000, and eBooks themselves can range from free downloads to prices of $20. The other thing I don’t like about eBooks is that when you buy a book, you don’t really own it. I mean, I can’t give the eBooks that I have purchased to my friends or family when I die, just as I can’t give them any movies or music that I’ve purchased from online stores such as iTunes. However, traditional books, DVDs and CDs can all be given to someone as a gift, or sold to ‘second-hand stores’ when no longer wanted. Collecting movies, music and books is my hobby, and I like to show my collection to friends when they visit my home – something that is hardly worth doing when it’s just a list of items on a computer screen. What’s the point of owning classics from Charles Dickens, JRR Tolkien, The Bronte sisters, Mark Twain, George Orwell, Robert Louis Stevenson, HG Wells, CS Lewis, or even contemporary books from Stephen King and so on if you can’t show them off?
While purchasing eBooks online (from Mac’s iBook store, or Amazon, Barnes & Noble Nook store, Smashwords, Kobo and so forth) is certainly convenient, I find it much more enjoyable to browse through titles in bookstores, newsstands, and libraries when I have the time. While it’s sad that so many small bookstores are disappearing, I can still find one or two in most shopping centers that I visit. A lot of the great books that I have bought and read were chosen without prior knowledge of their existence. It was more of a spontaneous decision based on the description of the story on the book’s dustcover. Usually, books bought online are those that the customer already knows about and searches for. Browsing is not as convenient or as enjoyable to do online as it is in the real world.
Finally, as an author preparing a debut novel for publication, I personally have a preference for traditional books. I would love to be able to present my book as gifts, in person, to close friends and family members. Furthermore, I would like to be able to autograph it for them, and to be able to sign copies of my book purchased by members of the public. That is virtually impossible to do with eBooks. Some self-published eBook authors choose to insert a ‘signature’ or ‘dedication’ in individual digital copies of eBooks and send it to friends and family but this is hardly the same thing. Besides it is less convenient for that person to show their friends their signed book when it is an eBook. I hope that I can get my book published traditionally. Wish me luck! Warmest regards.
See you on the shelf!