E-Books vs. Hardcover

The great debate.

I first read about the kindle e-book on amazon and marvelled at how amazing it would be to have an entire library at my fingertips.  Then, when they came out in Canada, my husband surprised me with one for Christmas.  I was completely overwhelmed.  Such a perfect gift for a writer.  I couldn’t help crying.  Does my husband know me, or what?  All that day, I had fun browsing through the collection, while I picked out the first book to download.  It couldn’t be just anything.  It had to be special.  It was Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf.

Ever since the first inception of e-books, there’s been a big debate over what would happen to hardcover books.  Many die-hard fans love the experience of holding a hardcover book in their hands.  They love the smell, the feel, and the look of a hardcover book.  And for a while, the hardcover lost its footing as the e-book took off.  Now, it appears that the hardcover is holding its own against its new relative.

As a life-long reader, and now writer, I love both e-books and hardcover.  As a writer, I look forward to having my novel River of the Stick Wavers come out in hardcover.  It’s been a dream of mine to see my book on the shelf of the Chatham Public Library (where I used to work.)  And when I have my book launch, I’ll be able to sign my hardcover book for my reader.  To be able to see the novel I worked on for five years come to fruition will be an amazing experience, I’m sure. Imagine what it will be like to see my book, come to life in hardcover.  I mean, you can’t have a book launch without a hardcover/paperback, can you?  Having something to hold in your hand and be able pass to it to another person who will read it, gives the whole thing a sense of occasion – ritual even.  It’s like graduation day where you receive a diploma after 4 years of work and study.  Only instead of receiving a diploma, I will be passing my novel into the hands of another.

Add a little humour to the situation.

I love seeing books sitting on my library shelf.  I have them all arranged into categories:  Literature, spiritual books, writing books, reference, biography, history, and art books.  Some books will be passed on when I’m done with them, while others I’ll keep.  I like to hold on to fiction books I particularly enjoyed and will to read again, reference and research books, my favourite spiritual books, and lately books about the phases of a woman’s life. There little that compares to wandering around a book store and getting lost in the stacks while looking for some unknown gem to catch the eye.  You can’t do that with an e-book. And can you imagine reading a children’s fairy tale on an e-book.  It doesn’t quite have the same impact.  The pictures would suffer tremendously.  And it’s somehow cozier to snuggle up with your child at bedtime to read from a hardcover than an e-book.

Yet, e-books are equally wonderful for different reasons.  The most obvious is you can throw an e-book in your purse when you go on vacation.  Whether it’s to travel by train, air, boat or be a passenger in a car, you are equipped with books, magazines, and newspapers that you can carry in your hand.  I have found that books that are out of print in hardcover, or hard to find, I’ve been able to locate on my kindle.  For example, Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban, which I did a reflection on for this blog.

It takes two people to balance this book.

Then there’s the heavy duty books like Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope that runs 542 pages, or War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy that boasts 720 pages.  They are so awkward to hold in your hand, you need a pillow on your lap in order to read them with any comfort.  E-books are lighter and can be held in one hand – whether it’s reading in a chair, or lying on your side in bed at night.

Reading is all that matters.

Nowadays, there’s the additional advantage of being able to download library books onto your e-book.  It just keeps getting better.  My kindle is very user friendly.  And that comes from a woman who has struggled to learn about all this new technology.  You can change the font size, which is a plus if you don’t want to squint.  You can underline passages you want to refer to again.  While this is a great feature, I still find it easier to find a passage I’m looking for with the hardcover version.

Especially when I’m doing research.  However, as I’ve illustrated, each format has its advantages.  I love and recommend them both.  After all, in the end it doesn’t matter whether we read a hardcover or an e-book, as long as we’re reading.

Categories: Book Talk

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