Is E-Reading Finally Mainstream?

How much of your reading in the last week was done online?
Probably a lot. But how much of your fiction reading was done online?
Probably more and more every week! E-reading has officially moved out of the fringe and has become mainstream in the past couple of years. There is a variety of devices you can choose from, from Amazon’s Kindle to Barnes and Noble’s Nook to Apple’s iPads. Even more people seem to be doing their reading on smartphones. So have paper books gone the way of the dinosaur? This has been a heated subject of debate for the past few years, but I think it’s only really become relevant to devoted readers recently. Now the cheaper prices of ebooks, combined with some pretty slick, convenient devices, make it hard to say no to e-readers, even for the most die-hard book devotees.

So where do you fall in the so-called war on paper books? Do you still love the smell, the feel, and the experience of opening a book? Would you rather save your money and buy more ebooks? Or do you prefer the electronic reading experience, with its built in lights and ability to check email or define words as you go?

I’m personally a half-and-halfer. I love having paper books, and I get inspiration from seeing my collection on the wall. But I appreciate the ease and convenience of ebooks. They’re great for traveling or when you’re far from home for a long time. They’re great for buying books that you don’t want to spend the hardcover price on. And if it leads to more people buying more books, that seems like a good thing for authors and readers alike. As long as sufficient protections for writers are built into the ebook business, as publishers and agents are hopefully starting to do, it seems like a good thing. But I’ll mourn the day when people don’t have books on their shelves.

So how do you feel about the ebook revolution? Do you use tablets for school, or read your homework on a device? Do you take a device traveling? Do you love cozying up with a paper book? Do you hardly even remember what paper feels like? Where do you fall on the spectrum, and what do you think is the future of the paper book?

2 comments

  1. Michael Washburn says:

    I guess for a member of the younger generation be a half-and-halfer on this issue is not the worst thing imaginable. But I urge you to give this matter a bit more thought. If you have not already, you really should read Jason Epstein’s essays in the New York Review of Books where he addresses the questions you have raised here. Epstein makes the point – obvious if you think about it, but not nearly as widely appreciated as it could be – that a book existing only as data stored somewhere has a very, very fragile and precarious existence. With the press of a button or the click of a mouse, years of work by the author are erased forever. Hardly a comforting thought for readers who value and cherish a book, let alone the author who has made such an investment over so much time.

    Or, as the editors of the literary journal Explosion-Proof have put it, printed books may not travel at the speed of light, but neither do they disappear when the plugs are pulled.

    Just in case I haven’t made the point strongly enough: A book is a thing that exists in the world. An e-book has, at best, a very contingent existence. As far as I and a lot of other writers are concerned, books do not really exist unless they have the durability, the ruggedness, the physical presence, and all the aesthetic dimensions of print.

  2. Karlisha says:

    Like you I am a half and half-er. I love to physically hold a book in my hand, but I also love the convenience of my devices. I have both my iPad and a Kindle for my eBooks. I have so many physical books that I have run out of space on my bookshelves, so lately I have only been buying eBooks. I even get my textbooks in eBook form. I don’t think people need to worry so much; there will always be a demand for physical books so they aren’t going anywhere. People thought the same thing when everyone started using computers, but they still sale pens and paper.

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