I recently bought a new Kindle as a birthday present to myself. I have a Nook Color (old school) and an iPad, but both are a little cumbersome, and the Kindle is smaller and lighter to carry around, especially now that I’m getting more and more eARCs to read. Purchasing the device got me thinking about the endless debate between reading physical books or eBooks.
I used to be 100% against using an eReader. Nothing could beat the smell or feel of a good book. I had absolutely no interest in a Kindle, even if it was smaller and lighter than a hardback. Then, the bookstore I was working in started selling eReaders. The more I played with it, the more I liked it. So, I bought my first Nook. It was the first generation E-Ink device, and I actually loved it. I loved the accessibility and ease of the book. I also loved that I had gotten it as a 3G device before they started charging extra for that, so I didn’t even need to worry about wifi.
Two years later I decided to upgrade to a Nook Color. This was the first color tablet Barnes & Noble offered, and it was a great device for readers. It was better, faster, had a better web browser and more games and apps. I used this device a lot, though I still found myself reading a lot of physical books.
While I was in grad school I purchased an iPad to use in class, and then I had access to any reading app I wanted – Nook, Kindle, iBooks, PDF readers, etc. Suddenly I didn’t need one designated reader, because I could read whatever I wanted when I wanted. However, the iPad is large and not easy to carry around all the time. Also, I discovered that trying to read on a device that also gives you notifications for texts, Twitter, Facebook, etc. can be a little distracting. I would switch apps to respond to a message and it’s 15 minutes later when I finally switch back to my book. The Nook (which I now barely use) is also somewhat heavy (though at the time it was considered rather light). Plus, I was starting to miss the simple E-Ink screen of my very first Nook.
Now that I am reading a lot more books from Netgalley, the easiest way to access the eARCs is to just send them to my Kindle (the process for getting them onto a Nook is more complicated). So, I decided if I wanted a smaller device I could carry with me, it was time to invest in a Kindle. And so far I love it. But where does that leave me in the Physical Book vs. eBook debate?
When I was working in a bookstore that sold eReaders it was interesting to observe the kind of people who were interested in the eReaders and those who weren’t I discovered that a lot of the people uninterested were actually part of my generation. It was the older generations that seemed more inclined to purchase the eReaders, while the younger ones still preferred the feel of an actual book in their hands. This was quite the opposite of the response one would have expected.
I love actual physical books. I still spend way more money on them than I should, and I still read exponentially more physical books than eBooks. Nothing will ever replace that feel or smell. I have found that there are a lot of books that I want to have to line my shelves, and I want to feel that book in my hand – particularly a paperback. The books I tend to purchase in digital form are the ones that I’m really not sure I’ll care about having on hand (quite often these end up being ones chosen for my book club). If I’m not sure I’ll like the book and can buy an ebook for $2.99, I’ll definitely go that route over paying much more for an actual copy. But despite now owning three different devices on which I can read eBooks (four if you count my phone) my first instinct is still to purchase a physical copy of the book, and I’m sure that will never change. Last month I ordered a copy of Eoin Macken’s Kingdom of Scars from the U.K. because I wanted an actual book and the only way to get it in the US currently is on Kindle. Sure, I had to pay more for it than I would have the eBook, but it didn’t matter to me. (And when it arrived I discovered it was actually a signed copy, so it was definitely worth the extra cost.)
Reports from this summer say that this summer’s popular reads Go Set a Watchman, Grey and The Girl on a Train, actually saw higher physical sales than eBooks. I don’t think we have to worry about physical books going anywhere any time soon. Hopefully, the same will remain true for the brick and mortar bookstores, as they will always be better than ordering online as well.
So, where do you stand in the eBook vs. Physical Book debate?