When the popularity of e-books started to rise, I bought a Sony reader (the Kindle wasn’t available in Canada at the time). It came loaded with a couple of public domain books. I held the gadget in my hands and admired it. “I own an e-book reader,” I thought. “I’m ahead of the curve.” Then I wondered what to do with the thing. I forced myself to read a couple of books on it. After that, it collected dust on a shelf. I went back to reading print, not that I’d ever really stopped.
It’s not that I’m a technophobe or technologically challenged. Quite the opposite. I worked as a software developer for over 20 years and my partner despairs of all the computer equipment littered around our house. I can pick up new computer languages in a jiffy. I’ve taught myself how to write WordPress plugins. I keep up with technology. But when it comes to reading, an activity I’ve enjoyed for over 45 years, I have my preferences.
I’ve tried, really tried, to love e-books. I understand all the benefits: They’re (usually) cheaper. You can carry around hundreds of books on a device that hardly weighs anything! You can adjust the font size. You can highlight and share sections that resonate with you. They’re searchable. You can change the background to black and the text to white (though why anybody would want to, I have no idea). The list goes on.
When the Kindle became available in Canada, I decided to try again, despite my failure with the Sony reader. I bought a Kindle, one of the really cheap ones. I wasn’t going to throw away too much money this time.
Everyone who has a Kindle loves it, right? I’d read the glowing reviews. I made more of an effort. I bought a few books and read them on the Kindle. Once again, I was underwhelmed with the experience. I kept finding myself selecting “Paperback” when shopping at Amazon.
“I must be missing something,” I told myself. Then again, maybe not. I’d once told myself the same thing about men, and it turned out I wasn’t missing anything.
I finally gave myself permission to admit that, sure, e-books may be the wave of the future (though maybe not), but I prefer print.
That doesn’t mean I never read e-books. I do. I also buy them. But only non-fiction, and only for certain topics. And when I do, I prefer to use Kindle for PC, rather than my cheap Kindle device, because I can read the book on my large monitor. For fiction, it’s print all the way. The only time I read fiction on a Kindle is when I’m proofreading a book that I’m about to publish.
I’m not sure why e-books don’t do it for me. Maybe I associate reading on a screen with work. Maybe an e-reader just doesn’t feel the same as a physical book. Or perhaps I prefer print because it’s not as convenient to jump around in an e-book as it is in a print book. Who knows? I just know what I prefer.
I also had an experience not long after getting my Kindle that didn’t help the e-book case. I decided to take my Kindle with me to an appointment. I tried to muster some excitement at the prospect. Think of it! Instead of lugging along a print book, I’d have my Kindle with me and could choose from the twenty or so books that were on it at the time. Wasn’t that one of the selling points for e-books? Being able to carry around a boatload of books in your knapsack without killing your back?
Everything was going okay until I got on the bus to go home. I took my Kindle out of my knapsack, selected a book, and settled in for a nice, leisurely read. Five minutes later, I pressed the button to go to the next page. Nothing happened. I pressed it again. Nothing. I mashed the button. The damn Kindle was frozen! What now? I didn’t know what to do. Worse, I had nothing to read for the rest of the ride home. If only I’d taken a print book instead. I sat there envious of those on the bus who were blissfully reading their print books.
When I got home, I found out how to reboot the Kindle. I did so, muttering, “I wouldn’t have to do this with a print book.” Short of being dropped in a puddle or set on fire, a print book wouldn’t let me down.
I still read the occasional non-fiction e-book on my Kindle device, but I’m looking forward to an Amazon order that’ll arrive later today: two paperbacks.
How about you? Print, or e-book?
Sarah Ettritch writes science fiction, fantasy, and mystery stories with lesbian main characters. Check out her stuff at http://www.sarahettritch.com.