Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Why I Have Yet to Switch to E-Books

With the release last week of Amazon's new Kindle Fire, I thought about the reasons why I haven't switched to e-books. People who know me would think I would've jumped on that bandwagon already. I love reading (see: my Goodreads page for all the books I've read and reviewed), I love technology, and I love gadgets. An e-reader would seem to be the perfect fit.

But alas, no. I might sound like one of those militant audiophiles who prefer vinyl to CDs or God forbid digital music, but having a book in hand gives me a great sort of satisfaction. There are several factors why I like books and brick-and-mortar bookstores:

1. The smell of a new book can't be beat. The fresh, crisp pages and the ink have a very specific smell to them and I love that when I read.
2. I like sticking a bookmark in the book and seeing how much I've read and how much I've got left. This is especially applicable to really thick books that are more than 500 pages long. There's a certain pleasure that I get when I see how much I've read that I don't think is the same with an e-book.
3. The amount of space that books take up on my shelf also makes me happy. Maybe I'm a snob in this regard, but I love being able to show off the books I've read. It doesn't make me feel more intelligent (I wouldn't necessarily call Harry Potter reading for intelligent people), but it's more of a feeling of accomplishment. I know some people don't give a rat's ass about how many books I've read in my life, but it's important to me.
4. Going to the bookstore and having a conversation with a salesperson is incomparable to getting an impersonal recommendation based on a few algorithms. Talking to someone about why they loved or hated a book and having a good discussion or debate about is far better than just pulling up a review. Yes, I'm on Goodreads, but for me, it's something that can start a discussion.
5. Going back to the smell of a book, the smell of a bookstore is also just heavenly. I prefer the smell of new books to old musty ones, but either way, it's something you don't get with an e-book.
6. Browsing in a bookstore is not the same as browsing books online. I know you can "look inside" books on certain websites, but not all pages are viewable. I also like to just browse the shelves and walk through the store without having anything specific in mind. It's a little harder for me to do that on Amazon or Barnes & Noble's website.
7. I can loan out physical books I have or borrow books my friends have read without any problem. I don't think you can share books with people on the Kindle.

Getting an e-reader would be excellent for traveling, of which I do a fair amount. I remember I read all three of the books I had with me within the first week I was in Jordan with Christian. It was a pain having to find an English language bookstore and when we did, I was lucky to find something I wanted. It would've been much more convenient to just say, oh, I'm done reading everything, let's buy something else. *click* And it would've been much nicer sticking an e-reader in my bag instead of having four books taking up space in my suitcase.

However, e-books can be just as expensive as a physical book and all you get is a PDF or some other file. Why should I have to pay as much as a physical book when there's less involved? There's no printing, shipping, or store costs. The middleman is cut out, so you would think it would be cheaper. If I knew that the author would get a good cut of the cost, then I'd pay it. But based on some author interviews that I've read, I doubt that the author gets a decent pay from each book he or she sells. I really don't think I want to pay $18.99 for Ken Follett's Fall of Giants for the Kindle when I can buy the paperback for $15.85 on Amazon. With the paperback, I can loan it to people and I don't have to worry about the file getting corrupted or whatever. Sure, you could argue that I could lose the paperback by leaving it in the train, but you can do that with the Kindle. And then your whole library would be lost. I realize that there are now clouds where you can backup your books or just get a hard drive and there are ways around losing files or your Kindle, just like a real physical book.

I will admit that I used to be adamant about not buying an e-reader. However, the new Kindle's price is very attractive. But I'm still hesitating because I just don't want to have to pay the same amount of money for an e-book when I could just buy the physical one. If Amazon or Barnes & Noble or some German store had a package deal combining the e-book and the physical book, I'd certainly be more willing to buy an e-reader. Even if the package cost more, say, $20 for Fall of Giants, but I got the e-book and the paperback, I'd definitely pay that. And then if I wanted to buy the hardcover version with the e-book, just charge a little more, like $30. Granted, I'm just throwing out rough prices here for a specific book, but I really would do that.

I think I'm just holding out to buy one because I really am a bibliophile. I swap books with other expats here in Germany and I end up reading stuff I never would have otherwise. If e-readers made it easier to loan books and/or changed the pricing, I think I would be more willing to have one just for traveling (especially with the new Kindle prices), though I don't think I'd ever give up physical books or going to the bookstore altogether.


MP said...

You should give the Kindle Fire a try. The Kindle Fire will act more as a tablet, but still be conncted to large amounts of reading content. So with all these features, the Kindle Fire becomes more a matter of convenience than simple reading capability.

The Kindle Channel

plee said...

@MP, yes, I did see the new Kindle Fire and think it's interesting. I've considered buying one, but I'm not sure if I'll buy the first release. And yes, I can definitely understand convenience!

dibya said...

i also prefer actual books to ebooks. its a happy feelin to see the shelf wood bend with the weight of books

Stacey said...

I also like the feel and smell of books (you mentioned smell of new book, but those old, worn, comfy books smell good too)

Judy said...

I think there's a happy medium. I love love love real books. I love bookstores and they can be dangerous for me! But I can spend hours browsing in the soft quiet, murmuring voices and the smell of the books. I still read books, have stacks by my bedside and belong to a book club where we read "real" books.

But I love my Kindle. Even though the new Fire was out, I chose the pushbutton one. I've purchased a highly recommended book for 99 cents that was great, and a couple for $10. I love how easy it is for transporting. For travel is is perfect. How many plane flights have I tried to stuff 3 books in my bag? !! Also, I do believe you can share books between other Kindle users. But don't quote me! I enjoy your blogs!

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