Kernels of Nonsense, #20: eBooks vs. Print

Kernels of Nonsense (2)Kernels of Nonsense is a bimonthly feature (posted every second and fourth Sunday) where I discuss various bookish topics. This week I explain why print books are my preferred literary form.

As the world evolves into a digitally friendly one, many of our activities are being adapted accordingly, including reading. The literary market has seen a spike in eBook popularity and the demand does not look like it will disappear any time soon. Publishers and other companies are embracing this new form of distribution, manufacturing tablets designed specifically for book lovers looking for a new and easier way to read. Publishers are not the only ones taking advantage of this new format, authors are finding it easier to publish a book digitally. Bloggers are embracing the eBook world too, utilizing websites like NetGalley, which gives them access to hundreds of eARCs and other digital copies.

Unlike many readers, I haven’t so willingly adapted to this new format. In fact, I kind of hate reading eBooks. I’ve heard all the benefits. eBooks are cheaper. eBooks can be taken anywhere and won’t weigh you down. You never have to limit the number of books you carry with you. eBooks will never be damaged or wear out. You can purchase a book and within seconds have it available to read without ever leaving your house.

All of these are great reasons to rejoice over this new innovative form of reading. From a practical point of view, I see no reason why someone should so willingly discount digital copies. I’ve questioned my own reasoning for not reading more eBooks, except when it comes to books, I’ve never been the most practical. I relate to books on a largely emotional basis and it is this part of me that would rather have a printed book in my hands.

I’m fond of physical books in a way that only other bookworms can understand. I love receiving book-shaped packages in the mail. I love tearing open boxes and pulling out new books. I love the feel of a book between my fingers. I love stroking the spine and admiring the cover. I love that crisp sound that happens when you open up a new book. And, oh the smell! There is nothing like the smell of a brand new book. There is nothing like the smell of an old book either.

There are moments when I stand before my bookshelves in admiration, reflecting on the wonderful stories before my eyes. And when I see a certain book resting happily on my shelves, I feel that it is mine, that every emotion I associate with it is contained within its pages. I don’t have the same feelings when it comes to the eBooks on my tablet. I never feel like I truly own the book when I only have a digital copy. I tend to forget that I have them at all. I can’t take them off my shelf in a moment of nostalgia and flip through the pages remembering how it made me feel. There is no spine to stroke and no pages to smell.

eARCs have made it impossible for me to completely swear off eBooks and I’m not so naive to think that digital copies are simply a fad. eBooks are here to stay and will have a much heavier influence on younger generations. My only concern is publishers may be influenced by the demand and the cheaper cost of eBooks that printed books will no longer be an option for certain publications. I need the choice and as long as I do have one, I’m be happy. I will leave you with a quote from Neil Gaiman on printed books:

“Books smell and feel better. They have that wonderful thingness of turning the pages.”

What is your opinion on the eBook vs. print book debate? Do you prefer one over the other? Which format do you read more and is this a choice or a response to the growing digital world? Share your thoughts in the comments below.