I’ve been thinking about doing this post for months. Initially I contemplated giving it some Buzzfeed-style catchy title (17 Ways My Kindle Makes My Life Worth Living) but in the end I opted for simple, what-it-says-on-the-tin title. So here it is.
I’ve mentioned books on this blog here and there, mostly either LM Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables or Agatha Christie, or, if it’s a Gloomscapes post, a dystopian novel. This post not strictly about books, though, it’s about their format. The reason? Well, eBooks need some love. I’m fed up with the stupid comments about how eBooks will never be as good as “real books” and how you can’t really get immersed in an eBook and real books, nothing beats the smell of real books, realbooks, reAAAAALBOOKS waah waah waah! So, here I want to list my reasons why I LIKE eBooks.
However, this is not a physical books versus eBooks article. It’s not a war and it’s actually possible to like both. It’s an eBook appreciation piece—nothing more, nothing less.
Before I start, Disclaimer 1: I’m going to talk about Kindle eBooks, because that is the format I’m familiar with. Most of the main points should apply to other brands, but some of them may not.
Disclaimer 2: I do not work for Amazon and this post is not endorsed by Amazon.
- eReaders are compact – in a device the size of a paperback, you can store 1000s of books and carry them around with you wherever you go.
- Speed – eBooks take seconds to download. Now this may sound lazy, I can hear those “instant gratification” comments already. But it’s more than that. People who may not have time to go to bookstores due to work and family commitments, people who live in remote locations with no bookstore in a reasonable distance, people who have disabilities that make going to a bookstore a difficult task.
- “RealBooks look better on the shelf!” they say. I’m sure that’s very nice, but… what if you don’t have a bookshelf? We live in hard times. Not everyone can afford to buy big houses with large rooms where you can dedicate multiple walls to bookshelves. A lot of people rent, a lot of people can only buy small abodes with little to no space for bookshelves. And if you’re still far from being settled down and know you’ll have to move several times, moving physical books just adds to your load.
- In-built dictionary. May not seem that important, but if you’re not a native English speaker, it sure is useful. Highlight a word and a definition appears. Yes, yes, you can look up the word in a physical dictionary but you don’t always have one by hand. Or you’re reading on your lunch break at work, on a train or bus.
- Free classics/public domain books. Books that are in public domain are available for free in multiple formats. Shakespeare, the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson are just few examples. This is fantastic for lovers and students of classic literature, of course, and it also happens to be my favourite point, because this is how I was able to finally access all the LM Montgomery books after I moved to UK. Try as I might, I couldn’t find any of LM’s books in shops and libraries (I read somewhere that her books, or at least the Anne series, have never been out of print. I’ve never seen them in print!*) I still remember the feeling of absolute joy when I discovered her workon Gutenberg. Through a link on Wikipedia, no less. I downloaded all of them one by one and read them on my laptop, as this was before e-readers became mainstream. I was so, soooo happy to finally read all of LM Montgomery’s books in English! I can’t describe it to you how happy I was. (I soon found out how terribly bad the translations into my language were, but that’s another topic).
- Highlights and notes – highlight passages and make notes as you want, without damaging the book. Because Goodreads is owned by Amazon, your Kindle notes and highlights will be saved there and you can choose to keep them private or make them public. Here are mine. Also, if you purchase a Kindle book on Amazon, you can highlight and share directly to Twitter or Facebook.
- No need for bookmarks. The book stays where you left it. Of course, if you love bookmarks because they are art, that’s great. This is more for those people that always lose them and then have to resort to shoelaces, bus tickets, supermarket receipts and the like.
- Accessibility. Size of font can be changed, perfect for people with visual impairment. On a different level, e-readers are also very light. I remember someone commenting on a Goodreads post that they appreciated Kindle when they broke both their wrists and books became too heavy to hold.
- Prevent loss of books by backing them in a cloud. Books get lost. You move from home, to a different city, or a different country, can’t take your books with you. You settle in the new city/country, go back home to get your books, but those are nowhere to be found, because your family lost them and didn’t tell you and instead let you search desperately everywhere from floor to ceiling for them, not helping you search for them, repeating that they have no idea where those books could be, that they were right there last year. Until you realise that the books are gone forever and they won’t be so easy to obtain again because they are out of print. No such problems with eBooks. Even if some wicked person gets hold of your e-reader and deletes every book you have stored on it. I don’t know about other brands but with Amazon Kindle you keep all your purchases in your cloud; if this is not the case with whichever product you’re using, please make sure you back your eBooks up. This goes for all the digital content.
- eBooks can’t be lent. “Can I borrow that book you talked about?” “No, it’s an eBook.” May sound mean, but come on, how many books have you lent to people, only for them to never be returned to you? Or returned in a terrible shape? EBooks beautifully eradicate that issue. Get your own copy, you thief.
- Environment. No paper, no cutting of trees.
- What about libraries? You love libraries, right? Let me tell you that they are not dying, because many of them offer eBook lending too.
- Not sure if you want the world to know what you’re reading? No worries, nobody can see the cover, nobody will know.
- Not books, but since we’re talking Kindle, you can get newspaper and magazine subscriptions in this format. And because they’re digital, they won’t clutter your space—and save the trees.
- Last but not least, if you’re worried about staring at yet another screen, let me reassure you that eReaders don’t strain your eyes. It’s just like reading paper.
Of course I realise eBooks also have downsides–I’m not an uncritical fanatic. Like, you can’t have a digital book signed by the author, should you ever meet them. And browsing a bookstore is a legitimate way to spend your Saturday. And not all the titles are available in this format, which is unfortunate. I do hope more and more books will be released as eBooks as time goes by. Remember my Isaac Asimov post? Well, his Foundation series, which then was not available in digital form, has since become available in digital form!
So, what do you think, readers of WordPress and beyond? How do you consume literature? What about Audiobooks–are they your favourite format? Tell me in the comments!
Books in this post are: Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale (photoshoot with tulips), Agatha Christie’s Autobiography (dictionary shot), LM Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (large font), Sally Baumont’s Rebecca’s Tale (coffee shop pic) and finally, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation.
*To clarify, I found an old copy Anne of Green Gables in a charity shop. It’s a paperback from 1972 and barely holds together, with help of a lot of sellotape. So the point still stands because it’s an old edition, which you can’t find in shops anymore. I bought it after I already had the digital versions from Gutenberg. I’ve never seen any of the other Anne books, or any other LM Montgomery books, in a physical form.