Why the rage?

The purpose of books is to inform, educate or entertain. They can also be used to prop up the leg of a wonky table, or as paperweights, or to squash insects. Over the millenia books have been written on any material capable of being inscribed, including clay, wood, metal, wax, papyrus and stone. They were produced in the form of scrolls, tablets, and concertinas. They were laboriously hand-written and illustrated.

Once the printing press arrived, did readers welcome it, or did they regard it as a horrible modern invention and the ruination of the book? Did they prefer to unwind 50 feet of parchment to read the story?

I read a thread recently where somebody was saying how delighted they were with their Kindle. The thread deteriorated rapidly, with “proper” book readers expressing scorn and indignation. One of them went so far as to say that “these fads will soon be nothing more than piles of junk cluttering up the waste-fills, because nobody will want them.”  The conversation became quite aggressive.

Music has evolved from live performance through vinyl discs, via tape cassettes to CDs and is now in digital format. It’s all music however you listen to it. Many people find digital music quality preferable to vinyl. Some purists still enjoy those scratchy old discs. Whether people prefer listening to the vinyl, digital music is still “proper” music.

Digital photographs are “proper” photographs even though they have not been taken with a box with a pinhole in it. I have one friend who resolutely refuses to use a digital camera. That’s fine, it’s his choice. But he doesn’t rail against anybody who does.

I understand that everybody has their preferences, but do people really have to get so worked up if others choose to use a different media?

A book filled with blank pages can still be described as a book, even though there’s nothing to read in it. And an e-book/digital book is as much a book as one printed on paper. Provided it has words in it. 🙂

I find it strange when people say “Oh, I’d never read on an e-reader – I hate reading on a computer. I only read proper books.”  An e-reader is no more like a computer than a fish is like a bird. They are two entirely different things.  An e-reader offers many benefits a paper book doesn’t: in-built dictionary, ability to re-size font, instant delivery. You don’t need to use a biscuit wrapper to remember your page – an e-reader does that for you. If you’re travelling you can carry 500 books or more in your pocket. There are thousands, yes thousands of free books available for e-readers, including all the classics. You can carry every word written by Shakespeare, Dickens, Homer, Austen et al. around with you. The pages don’t fall out when the book gets old. The spine doesn’t wrinkle. If you get Marmite on it you can wipe it off without leaving a stain. An e-reader is lighter than a book, and you only need one hand to hold it and turn the pages. Those are some of the reasons I love my Kindle. On the downside they’re not much use for propping up that wonky table leg or batting wasps.

But hey! Why should it bother me if other people prefer paper books? It doesn’t. And why on earth do some paper book readers get so wound up when they hear e-readers mentioned? Read and let read, I say.

Best Foot Forward and The Valley of Heaven and Hell are both available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle, and from Smashwords in all other digital formats. An updated version of A Perfect Circle will be available in paperback and Kindle soon, followed by two more titles this year.

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13 thoughts on “Why the rage?

  1. My geek is in contact with Amazon to try to get the Kindle to work…and I shall be delighted when it does.
    I like books…proper books….but to be able to read while waiting in queues or on the bus without having to cart a book around would be bliss.
    People get so worked up over trivia…why don’t they spend their energy questioning the way our world is governed?

    Um…I have dropped books in the bath….will this kill a Kindle?

    • Fly, I wouldn’t risk dropping the Kindle in the bath. It might not be good for it. But Amazon are brilliant at replacing broken Kindles. Perhaps contact them in advance and ask if they will give you a new one if yours gets wet? 🙂 Once it’s working, of course.

  2. You already know my thoughts on the e-book Vs paper question, but I hope I’m not rabid in my defence of the paper variety. I do, however, think there’s a difference between the case of music delivery development and books.
    With music you simply load whichever delivery format you prefer and listen. There’s no physical connection to the delivery method. Books are different in both delivery options. The paper/hard back version is held in the hand, there’s a “feel” to the paper, a smell (especially in old books), and for many, myself included, the love of (paper) books encapsulates all these facets as well as the actual act of reading them.
    Fundamentally I love reading, and that’s it. I read all sorts online, and I have even loaded the Kindle reader on the iPad and am reading and enjoying” Ghosts of Spain” on it, but for me there will always be a difference between the screen reader and the paper book. Whilst the screen can give me the words it cannot replicate the whole sensation of the paper book. But that’s fine. Each to their own. My partner prefers her Kindle and is happy with it. I couldn’t be.
    There’s also another factor, which I may have harped on about before, second hand book shops. There is no law preventing the sale of SHBs (or computer software/games curiously enough), and please let there never be one, but there are laws which prevent the sale of pre-owned e-books (and legally downloaded music!). Whilst this is good news for e-publishers, it isn’t for those of us that have always loved browsing and buying from SHB shops. And before anybody raises it, I know that the author (and publisher) do not benefit directly from SHB shops, and perhaps there’s an issue there, but I have discovered countless authors (yourself included!) by purchasing a SHB and then gone on to buy everything they’ve ever published in new editions. E-books cannot provide the same service to the reader, author and publisher.
    I can see the advantage of having an e-reader for holidays Etc., I read about four books a week on average, so an e-reader would be a boon in this instance, but once home I’d be back to paper. And I can’t remember my last holiday anyway!

    • Andy, in reply to the SHB shop comment, there are thousands of completely free e-books available for e-readers, and many for under £1. Not only the classics from sites like Gutenberg, but also on Amazon. You get a mixed bunch, but some of them are really good reads. Often authors promote their books by making them free for a limited time so that they get noticed. Also, you can share any ebook with 7 devices, so you can lend it to 6 friends. Not a bad deal.

  3. I’m with Andy. Second hand books are a lifeline for those on a limited income. I appreciate that authors need to eat too, but I place inovations like ebooks and Kindles into the same catagory of GM crops that yield infertile seeds.

    Of course, Amazon will win. In a few years time – when their share of the market in books represents an overwhelming domination – they will announce that the paper book is dead and stop selling them.Its all about money and control.

    • But there are already thousands of free ebooks, both classics and new books coming out all the time. And many more for less than £1. So they can compete with SHBs on price. In fact authors generally do far better from ebook royalties than treebooks, too! I understand your sentiments, but my point was that some people become enraged when the topic of e-readers arises, and that’s what I can’t understand. They’re just books in another form. I can’t recall there being such fury over audio books when they first came out. I think you are right, and that within 20 years treebooks will become rarities. So start collecting them now for your pension. 🙂

  4. I love my Kindle too. Living in France I don’t have access to second hand books in English, and my bookshelves are full anyway, and no, I don’t want to get rid of my books.

    So my Kindle is my access to books. I have read so much more since I’ve had my Kindle than I ever read before (and that was saying something) because I can access mostly free books on manybooks.net. Being on a tight budget this is a fantastic resource.

    Last Sunday, my Kindle screen went all funny with lines and blank spaces all over it. I rang Amazon and they sent me another, free, which arrived yesterday. My ebooks are all on my computer so I can just load them back up. Cool!

    • Yes, being able to buy cheap and/or free books and have them arrive instantly, instead of waiting a week and paying postage, is a boon for those of us living in remote corners of the world. 😀 And they certainly do seem to encourage people to read more. I haven’t worked out why yet. Amazon give a brilliant service, don’t they? And the fact that all your books are safely stored in eternity is comforting.

  5. The Kindle has been the key to me reading again and though I had the usual qualms about the lack of a hard-copy – to begin with – I feel completely indebted to that sturdy plastic device! I’m mystified about the pricing of eBooks, how they have VAT charged whereas a ‘normal’ book doesn’t, but that’s compensated for by the large amount of free literature available (e.g. from sites such as Project Gutenberg) and its flexibility. For example, my mother suffers from Glaucoma and her eyesight is now very poor -after showing her my Kindle with its changeable font size, she now realises she’ll be able to read much more, and more easily, than before.

    • E-readers are a real boon for people with poor eyesight. When my eyes are very tired I just notch the display up to a larger font. Why there is VAT payable on ebooks but not treebooks is a mystery. I’m sure there’s logic in it somewhere. 🙂 I do think that many ebooks are grossly overpriced considering that they are simply digital files, and the publishers are taking the piss. More fool them, with all the very good free and low-cost ebooks available, they’re shooting themselves in the foot. Thanks for visiting Phil.

  6. Pingback: Crack the spine « xlalalalisax

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