It seems to me that there is still a lot of debate regarding e-readers out there. Are they useful? Are they better than an actual book? Are they more convenient? Or are they more of a nuisance? Do they have a negative impact on literacy? There is an abundance of opinions regarding e-readers and there doesn’t seem to be a consensus regarding positive or negative aspects of the e-reader. I have been thinking about this for awhile as I recently heard a discussion between two strangers (to me) on the bus one day. As a result, I want to try to highlight and examine some of the arguments that are out there for and against our friend or potential enemy: the e-reader.
One of the biggest arguments for the e-reader is its portability. The size of weight of an e-reader versus that of a standard book is drastically different: thinner, lighter, and generally smaller as well. This portability argument is especially true in terms of e-reader apps that can be downloaded right onto your smartphone – something most of us carry with us every day. Books may not necessarily be heavy, referring to the standard mass market paperback, but they can still be bulky depending on how long the book actually is. In the case of hardcover books, the size and weight are significantly larger than that of an e-reader. An e-reader is simply easier to transport and keep with you on a regular basis. Much more effort is required to be able to transport books with you: larger bags/purses, etc. Another advantage to having a e-reader around is the fact that in having an e-reader one has access to an entire library of titles at their very fingertips. There are thousands of titles available, giving one almost endless options as to what to read next. Compared to having to go to a bookstore to purchase a book, this is also much more convenient. Convenience seems to be the order of the day for most in current times. Thanks to having these seemingly endless collections of titles in a database, it also gives us the opportunity to read books that may not otherwise be available to via mainstream methods – i.e. going to the bookstore. A classic example of some of these are books written by non-mainstream authors, especially indie titles and those who have self-published. This provides greater exposure for these non-mainstream authors and can help them further their writing careers. This in itself can be an excellent reason for e-readers to be a positive force in society. Many of the self-published authors deserve the exposure and the money that can be earned from the purchasing of their books for e-readers. The arguments for the e-reader seem to be very practical in nature, and may be enough to help people decide if e-readers are for them or not. An examination of the arguments against shows a slightly different approach that is not uncommon elsewhere.
One of the most common arguments against the e-reader is nostalgia. Many people argue that e-readers don’t possess the uniqueness that books do, and that e-readers can never have that new/old book smell so many love. It also decreases opportunity to collect all of the books in a set. It just isn’t the same as being able to do this, even if one does own all of the books in a set on their e-reader. I can personally see how some of these reasons would turn people against the e-reader; especially those who are attached to their books. I admit, I am very attached to mine. Another argument against e-readers is the cost – they are rather expensive initially, and then one still has to purchase the books to read. There are free ebooks available, but most do still cost the same as a book one would purchase in the store. This could pose a problem for someone on a budget. Finally, there is an argument out there that due to the electronic components and manufacturing, e-readers are in fact less eco-friendly than paper books. I imagine those who take this position are very much against them.
I myself am on the fence. I do not lean 100% one way or the other. While I like the convenience of an e-reader while I am travelling or generally on the go, nothing can beat the feeling of holding a book in my hands as I read (usually with a nice hot mug of tea, of course!). I do not own an e-reader, but I do have an e-reader app on my phone (an Android smartphone). I go in spurts where I use it a lot, and then other times I go months without using it at all. I am going through one of those times where I rarely use it at the moment. Currently, my personal preference is leaning towards paper, but that also changes for me based on how much I am on the go. Lately I haven’t been doing much more than going to work and coming home again after work, so I guess I haven’t had much use for it.
What do you all think of e-readers? Do you love them or hate them? Don’t hesitate to leave your responses in the comments!