The debate over e-books—you know the one, are they friend or foe to the written word?—rages on as strongly as ever these days, even though e-books have been a daily part of many readers’ lives for four or five years now.
I’m not trying to make to make a dent in the debate, or pretend I have new ground to add to the conversation. But in the last couple of years, I’ve swung from the doom and gloom perspective that printed books would someday go the way of the dodo bird, to a much more optimistic belief that printed books will always have a place on most peoples’ shelves, and may even enjoy renewed popularity in coming years.
What’s begun solidifying that view for me is partly a gut feeling, but also in something I observed while I was out of town visiting my late-30s younger sister. The sister who swore two years ago that she would NEVER read another printed book again, and that she would forevermore have an exclusive relationship with digital books.
So I was shocked when I spied a couple of printed novels lying around her house that she was in the middle of reading. I asked her why she’d broken her e-vow, and she said it started while on holidays this summer when she decided she needed more digital time-outs. She was finding that, as writers have known for a long time, there are too many other simultaneous digital distractions. So while she was reading a novel, she was skipping to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and so on.
Her other “regression excuse” was that she was joining a book club and needed to have a printed copy of the book up for the monthly discussion. Whatever. I’m just glad she’s made room once again for printed books in her life.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not dissing e-books. They’ve certainly helped pad my author’s bank account, and they’ve provided motivation for people to do more reading and book buying, thanks to their cheaper prices. E-books certainly have the convenience factor working for them too.
But my sister’s experience raises a good point. When you read a printed book, you can totally immerse yourself in that book and enjoy all its wonderful, sensory benefits… the smell and feel of pages, the heft of it in your hand if it’s a thick, juicy one, the memories of an earlier, pleasurable reading experience that a book can ignite. And then, when you’re done, you can pass the book along to another person to enjoy (oops, as an author, I guess I’m not supposed to suggest that!).
As I write this blog, I’m drinking a cup of coffee. And it’s occurred to me that, for me at least, reading an e-book is a bit like taking a caffeine pill instead of drinking a cup of java. Yeah, when the coffee’s gone, it has the same effect on my body that a caffeine pill would have had. But then I would have missed the pleasure of sipping a hot cup of tasty liquid that smells divine, and forever is now linked in my mind with contemplative writing and relaxation.
Tracey Richardson has seven published lesbian romance novels with Bella Books and is working on her eighth. Follow her on twitter@trich7117 or check out her website at www.traceyrichardson.net