Reflections: 5 ways e-books are better

Reflections: 5 ways e-books are better

I didn’t think I would like e-books.

I was wrong.

Regular readers have heard me say that before. My first Kindle (one of the very first generation, which was released in 2007) was a gift.

Now, I’d had a very long history with paperbooks (p-books).

I’d been a bookstore manager, I used to travel with a separate suitcase just for books, I always had an “emergency book” with me (in case, tragedy of tragedies, I finished one while I was away from the house and had nothing to read), I had a floor to ceiling library (in a room which our kid eventually noticed was bigger than our kid’s bedroom), and owned books that were 100 years old.

That doesn’t mean I was a rich person who indulged in books as a hobby.

Those floor to ceiling bookshelves? They weren’t built-ins. We bought them “as is” from Ikea…some of them were as low as $5. Yep , five dollars for an assembled bookcase.

They don’t all exactly match, and we bought some of them with scratches and other imperfections.

I figured, hey, you aren’t going to see those anyway. I was right on that…the shelves are often two deep, with another layer with the books sideways on top.

Our best friends have said they will never help us move again, because of all the books. 🙂

I sometimes had the same book in several editions (The Wizard of Oz), for example, because I liked the actual morphology and design of the books, not just the words in them.

Like a lot of book people, I sort of dismissed e-books. Oh, I wouldn’t say I was dismissive of them, and I wouldn’t have denigrated anybody for reading them…they just seemed…ephemeral.

According to Isaac Bonewits, author of

Real Magic (at Amazon Smile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

the Law of Contagion in magic (Bonewits has done non-fiction analysis of how magic is believed to work) is

“Objects or beings in physical or psychic contact with each other continue to interact after separation.”

I, irrationally, felt that physical books had a special connection with me.

I wouldn’t say I actually thought that was the case, but I felt it.

Books that I had since I was a child seemed almost alive to me, like old friends.

If I knew a book had been owned by someone else in particular, I felt (not thought, felt) that it was “imbued with their essence” in some way.

E-books? They weren’t going to have any of that.

However, I was willing to give it a try…you know, like augmented reality of Stephen King’s “3-D sound book” decades ago. I didn’t think it would actually become part of my life, but it would be fun to experience. Sort of like…you don’t take a roller coaster to work, but they can be great on vacation. 😉

Well, I would never have predicted that I would do all of my regular reading with e-books!

Yes, I go back every once in a while to look something up in one of my p-books, but my day to day reading? That’s all e.

Why is that?

Part of it, I think, is that I am good at changing my positions.

I’m always open to other ideas.

I love looking at a behavior of mine, sometimes one of which I am completely unaware, and finding a better way…and most importantly, being able to make that shift (and love it).

I want to be very clear: I didn’t change to e-books to be trendy. 😉 I certainly did it before it was a trend, for one thing, but also, logically, I think they are better for my day to day reading.

Not better in every single circumstance. There is nothing wrong with reading p-books, and I want to see them all preserved. I don’t like art made out of books, where the books are destroyed in the process (like plates with embedded book covers…I’ve seen that sort of thing at arts and crafts fairs).

However, if I just want to read a book? It’s always an e-book now.

Here are five reasons why.

1. Text-to-speech

I would have laughed at the idea that I would like software reading me a book! This has been the biggest boon, the biggest shift. I typically listen to TTS for hours a week in the car. The technology has gotten much better over the years, which helps…but the main thing, as I like to say, is that driving is no longer “wasted non-reading time”. 😉 If I’m in a position where I can as easily sight read as listen to text-to-speech, I’m going to sight read. That’s not always the case, though. Much of technology becomes adopted because it is “better than nothing”. That’s going to be the case with robots (which I write about quite often in my The Measured Circle blog. Is a robot caregiver in the home better than a licensed social worker for an autistic child? No. Is it better than nothing? Absolutely! You can’t afford to have a social worker in every autistic child’s home, and I can’t sight read while I’m driving. I would not consume books anywhere near as quickly as I do because of TTS. I think publishers make a mistake when they block the access, partially for that reason.

2. The invulnerability of e

When I read a p-book, you usually can’t tell it has been read. I don’t even break the spine on a mass market paperback. That is, though, hard work. I love that when I read an e-book, I can’t degrade it! When someone is using our guest Kindle, they can’t mess up “my copy” of the book. I used to keep several copies of some books around (like The Man of Bronze, the first Doc Savage book) so I could just give them to people, rather than loaning them a copy. I didn’t want to have to worry about the damage…with e-books, that’s never an issue.

3. Increasable text size

This has become more important for me over time. As I write this, I am wearing one dollar glasses from the dollar store (I now also buy very inexpensive reading glasses from Amazon, but these literally came from a dollar store). I do tend to wear them when I read on a Kindle…but it’s really nice not to have to do that. I’d probably be into large print books now if I were reading p-books…and those are expensive, physically larger, and not always available.

4. Simultaneous Device Licenses

The ability for us to have the same book on multiple devices at the same time for one download price has changed (for the better) my reading relationship with my Significant Other. When a new Stephanie Plum comes out, we now read it at the same time (thanks to TTS, I tend to finish first, but we start at the same time). We can talk about it afterwards. I’d never read a Stephanie Plum before the Kindle. My SO would read one…and then give it to a sibling or someone else. Reading a book is one of the most intimate acts there is (just you connecting directly to the author through the words). Talking about a book with someone else, therefore, reveals some of your inner self. I wouldn’t have thought about this being a benefit of e-books, but it really is.

5. You ain’t heavy…you’re my e-book

It’s absolutely amazing to be able to easily carry ten books with me and switch back and forth whenever I want! I always tended to be reading more than one book concurrently. I would often have a book in each room in the house, and just read whichever one was where I was. I kept that emergency book I mentioned above in the car, and then I might have two with me. I love, love, love being able to bounce around! With access to wi-fi (which is common where I am), I can also download more if I want. One big reason why the Kindle exploded the e-book market and other devices hadn’t (there were more than ten EBRs…E-Book Readers available in the USA market when the Kindle was released) was that you could download wirelessly. Before I got the Kindle, I still thought of reading an e-book as either doing it on a computer, or plugging a device into a computer, downloading the book and transferring it over a period of perhaps minutes…with very little capacity on the device to hold books. I thought e-books weren’t more convenient than my home library, I thought they were less so. The Kindle completely inverted that: e-books are far more convenient for me than p-books! I think my SO had the best line. In the early days of the Kindle, someone sneeringly said to my SO, “I like the feel of a book in my hand.” My SO replied, “I like the feel of a hundred in mine.” Exactly.

Those are just five of the reasons, and there are more. I would miss each and every one of those if I had to go back to just p-books.

How about you? Think back…what have been the biggest advantages for you of e-books? Did you first try an e-book as a lark, as an experiment…or did you already know you would like them? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


18 Responses to “Reflections: 5 ways e-books are better”

  1. Karin Says:

    All of the reasons you gave for ebooks are true for me as well. I love being able to go on vacation now with one Kindle, and no physical books. I would agonize over which books to bring with me, because I never knew which books I would be in the mood to read. Now I don’t even think about which books to bring, only which Kindle.

    I had run out of space on my bookshelves, and had to start stacking them on the floor. Since the Kindle, I have been able to donate many books, and replace them with ebooks. Now all my books fit on my bookshelves. I always bought books to read, not necessarily to collect. A lot of my physical books are from used book stores, and not always in the best of shape. Eventually, I plan on keeping only those books that I want to read again, and those few beautiful hardcovers that I have, with the rest on my Kindle.

    The minute I saw the Kindle on TV (the first generation Kindle), I knew I had to try it, because the thought of having an entire library in my hands won me over. Within 30 minutes of opening that first Kindle box, I was hooked.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karin!

      Oh, I can empathize!

      When my Significant Other first saw my bedroom, I was literally jumping the last meter (three feet) or so to the bed…the rest of the floor was covered in careful bookstacks, with a path to the door. 🙂

      You were more decisive than I was about getting the Kindle, and adapted more quickly to it. It took me a book to do it (In Her Name)…

  2. Phink Says:

    #2 is right up my alley. I also bought the first gen kindle, which by the way, came with perhaps the best merchandising box I have ever seen. But, before that day I would never highlight a book, dog ear it, or do anything else that in my mind degraded it. This last Christmas my son bought me a hardcover book that was not available in the kindle store. He bought me Star Trek Federation: The first 150 years. I am currently reading it and there is so much stuff I’d like to highlight but I just can’t do it.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      I had somebody give me a p-book this last year, too! I haven’t bought one for myself in quite some time. I did read it…but honestly, I would have liked it better on the Kindle, I think. 🙂

  3. Wendy Frazier Says:

    Great article. I so relate. Four more reasons that I’m exclusively a Kindle reader:
    1. dictionary (so nice to have the instant definition)
    2. x-ray (it lets me read quickly and in strange places with an instant recall factor in case I get distracted)
    3. Paperwhite (I can go into any room and read — even pure darkness — and not worry about lighting).
    4. My massive pile of books is invisible to the naked eye.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Wendy!

      I don’t use the dictionary often, but when I do, I do like having it handy.

      X-Ray: I thought it would be a bigger factor for me, and I think it’s a cool idea, but it is more like that roller coaster experience I described than part of my every day reading life.

      I often say that the Paperwhite is the most comfortable reading experience I’ve ever had…including paper.

      I’m curious on that last one: is that because you don’t want people judging what you read, or just how much you read? I have to admit, there are books on my shelves that could be…controversial, and there are times that does worry me a tad.

    • Wendy Frazier Says:

      The number 4 for me is totally about quantity and clutter (and guilt). I’ve moved enough boxes of books — with the experience that they go shelf to shelf without much reading going on…..

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Wendy!

        Well, in addition to wanting to have books to read for myself, I also feel like I have them…

        * For other people I know, and my descendants
        * Since I am acting as a preservationist. I have some books which simply wouldn’t interest most libraries for their permanent collections, but I feel should be preserved for the future. I need to put some plan in place for what happens to them in the event of my death..although I haven’t really figured out what that plan is 🙂

  4. Phink Says:

    I bought my first kindle February 19, 2009 used for $275 and thought it was quite a bargain. I have since bought 14 EBR kindles and sold 8. I know because I keep extensive records LOL. I’ve paid as much as $299 for the DX and as little as $39 for a Kindle 1 after my son broke it out of warranty. Amazon sold me a refurbished one for $39 which at one time, and maybe still, was their common practice. To offer at a discount a kindle for those who had broken ones out of warranty. If the price of a kindle was still $379 (the original price if memory serves me correctly), I’d still have one. I just would not have as many as I do now. The current paperwhite is worth $400 in my opinion. Woops! I just realized I only paid $39 because I made my minor son pay half of it since he broke it. I wanted to teach him that while I could afford to replace it a lot easier than he could, there is a price to pay in life when things go wrong, even if it’s an accident. Ok, so I paid $39 but the price was $78.

    Everything you say above is true and probably why I hear this less and less “I just like the way a real book feels (or smells, or both).” I like what Bufo’s wife said once and please correct me if I got this wrong. I think she said in reply to that statement “I like the way 1,000 books feel in my hand.” I loved reading this post and once again shows how much I appreciate this blog. We probably don’t say it enough but I sure am thankful for this blog and all the work that goes into it. Thank You Bufo!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      We paid $19 for a new Kindle…that was perhaps the best of the lightning limited time offer deals on the Kindle Fire ever!

      My Significant Other’s line was only “100 books”, but I’m sure my SO would appreciate you remembering it. 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words! It is a lot of work, but readers like you make it worth it. 🙂

  5. Lady Galaxy Says:

    I’m another owner of a first generation Kindle. In addition to the positives you and the other commenters have listed, I really like how easy it is to organize and reorganize my Kindle books. At the click of a link, I can change from alphabetical by title to alphabetical by author to most recently read. With “collections” I can organize by catagories of my own choosing.

    And has anybody mentioned that it’s easier to dust off a Kindle than to dust off shelves and shelves of books!


    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      I’ve always been big on organizing my p-books, but you are right, that is simpler on the device. When you have books two deep and a horizontal level, even adding a book into it can be like a sliding square puzzle!

      Dust is a big factor! I’m allergic to dust (among other things), and that is a good point about e-books not accumulating it. I do wipe the screen of my Kindle Fire more than once a day (using the microfiber case for my phone), but my Paperwhite tends to stay pretty dust free.

  6. Mary Lee Davenport Says:

    One day in 2009 after seeing the second generation kindle on Amazon I looked around my house decided that the weight of books had reached near maximum and ordered my first kindle and have never looked back. Love the things.

  7. rogerknights Says:

    6. No paper cuts.
    (I wrote a script for a humorous ad utilizing that feature for the Kindle Guy and Gal a few years back.)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, rogerknights!

      I think I remember that ad…you might have shared it here. 🙂

  8. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I have 6 kindles (3 EBR’s; 3 Fires). My first was a KDX — I got it because of its PDF capabilities — I hoped to use it as a repository for the myriads of technical books that I used in my consulting practice.

    I used to carry around 80 lbs of books on trips to customer sites (oh my aching back (:grin)). I moved my collection of over 10,000 pbooks 3-4 times, once by myself with friends (never again!), and the rest using professional movers — they gave me estimates, and I would constantly tell them the estimates were not high enough — even with upwards revisions the final cost was always many thousands of dollars higher than the estimate (:grin).

    I expected to save some on the costs of the printed technical books (which back then were running $50-75 per title, and I was spending $3-5 K per year on technical books). I also figured that I could do some scripting, and implement a “print to KDX” facility — so I factored in reduced paper and toner costs, and budgeted around $500 for the KDX purchase.

    In the event the KDX was not the greatest vehicle for reading technical books in PDF format (the Fire 8.9″ tablets are superb for this). The “print to KDX” scripts worked, but had so many artifacts that my printer usage didn’t decrease all that much.

    I did find the KDX to be wonderful for mass market paperbacks, and from the day I got the KDX I went cold turkey. In the years since, I think I’ve bought exactly one pBook. I suppose I’ve saved more than the costs of the kindles in the reduced price of an eBook over the cost of the equivalent pBook (especially for technical & professional titles), but as the years have gone on those savings don’t factor at all much in my thinking.

    The 10,000 pbooks have gone into storage in NH. I have about 1,000 books in bookcases at my home here in Florida, but they are mainly for purposes of interior decoration. If I want to reread a book which I know is on these shelves, I will nevertheless buy the eBook version, and read it on a Kindle.

    BTW I’ve noticed that lately a lot of the eBooks I’ve been buying do not have xRay enabled — I wonder if that’s a trend? I have found xRay to be a useful aide memoire when reading character-stuffed stuff (:grin).

    So bottom line my reason for going to eBooks: eBooks don’t weigh nothing!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Gee, that’s a heavy reason for liking e-books…oh, wait a minute. 😉

      I think X-Ray draws from Goodreads…maybe you’ve been buying more books which don’t have p-book (paperbook) versions, and perhaps those have fewer Goodreads entries? Speculation on speculation there, but I’m just guessing.

      I pretend that I’ll digitize some of the books and get rid of the p-books…but I’m not at all convinced. 😉

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