A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
As with any technological advancement, ebooks and their ereaders have their friends and foes. For those who like ereaders, they are cool, modern and trendy, with the added implication of being an intelligent hipster. For those who don’t like them, they are a sacrilege, the end of thousands of years of the written word and maybe a good time to start chaining books to shelves again before they are all destroyed.
The reality is something else.
My belief is that they are simply different mediums of the same thing. The way watercolors and oil paints are. Or a rock band and a symphony orchestra. You can have both, they compliment each other.
I have a Barnes & Noble Nook ereader which I consider a Godsend, but I am not carting my piles of traditional books to the recycling canter, nor have I stopped buying them. Regular books will always be around, if for no other reason than to support the oversized art and travel books. And those with the glorious National Geographic type photos. I mean, imagine a photo of animals on an African veldt on a five inch screen! Do you know how tiny the gnu would be? That’s also the problem with maps and family trees on ereaders, they become useless in their microscopic size. The Royal Families are confusing enough! And good luck trying to look up something in the index, cast of characters or table of contents in an ebook. Yes, I know there’s a technical way to do it, but reading the directions for that would probably take longer than looking up the actual section would. “Too much bother” is what I often say when I want to search another part of an ebook, which may be more of a comment on my energy level than the difficulties of doing it. Speaking of which, I wonder what percentage of people avoid ereaders because they fear it’s too hard to learn to do anything on them?
As I said, I’m grateful for my Nook, especially when my health problems are acting up and I can’t get to the library in person.Instead, I can download ebooks from the library’s website. This is also handy in bad weather. Another benefit for those with less-than-perfect bodies, is the ability to change the font size and style on ereaders. Now one needn’t wait for large type books, which often come out months or years after the original edition.
Ereaders really prove their worth when reading thick books, such as Bill Bryson’s At Home, which runs to 600 pages. Rather than trying to balance such a door stop like a circus seal, one can read the ebook by holding less than a pound. And consider the convenience of packing just one ereader when traveling, instead of cramming multiple paperbacks in your suitcase. It’s also handier to take along to an appointment, that way you don’t have to be embarrassed about reading a trashy romance in a doctor’s waiting room. Or attract perverts on the bus.
The compact ability is one of the marvels of ereaders, the fact that you can put up to a thousand books on something that easily handled. Do you know how many bookshelves that would take to hold a thousand books? I don’t either, but it’s a lot, I’m sure. Who has time to go to Ikea that often?
There are probably a goodly number of people who, because of the novelty, consume more books on an ereader, than they ever would with traditional books. Maybe because it feels more like a toy or robot controls? This may attract kids, who won’t even have to smuggle a flashlight under the bedcovers, since many models are backlit and can be read in the dark.
One of the best things to come out of the ebook revolution is to give authors more access to the marketplace. Self-publishing is a growing trend, which has a different cachet than the vanity press of old. Dismissing the option is like saying a painter can only be taken seriously if they exhibit in a New York City gallery or a musician must play Prince Albert Hall to be a success. Self-publishing can be used as an adjunct to traditionally published books, or to build an audience. It must be an exciting new outlet for any author.
However, that does bring up one problem, the incompatible formats. It’s an unnecessary complication and can reduce readership when a book is only published in one format. Nooks, Kobo and Sony use the ePub digital style and Kindle uses Mobi; unfortunately, they are not interchangeable. Therefore, an ebook self-published on Amazon will not work on my Nook. Cue frowny face emoticon. The division leads to an unpleasant sense of competition, even among the Book Foxes, we have Team Nook and Team Kindle. It hasn’t ever gotten rough, we are geeks after all. No moments resembling the gang scene in West Side Story, with us wearing glasses instead of leather jackets, snapping the fingers on one hand and clutching ereaders in the other.
But one of the biggest drawbacks of ereaders is the battery, the charges just don’t last that long. I once had a battery run out of juice right in the middle of the denoument in a mystery novel. Frustration doesn’t begin to describe my reaction.
Bibliophiles will always point out that ebooks don’t don’t have the physical qualities of “real” books and it’s true. The sleek ereader can’t compare with the tactile sensations of embossed covers, thick paper, the smell of ink and leather, the flutter of air when the pages are flipped through.
Ereaders and regular books is not an ‘either-or’ situation, they don’t cancel each other out, they just provide more options for reading. And that is why I will always love books, in any medium.
Jackie was given a Nook for her birthday last year and often clutches it to herself with affection.