I’m a librarian. I read a lot. And I have now had my Nook for a little more than three months, and since people keep asking me about ebooks vs. “real books”, I thought it would be worthwhile to write a bit about how I feel about the whole situation.
I never wanted an ereader. I have been a book lover as long as I can remember. And then the Borders year happened, and I was briefly a book snob, too. (I still haven’t read the Da Vinci Code, and I won’t. Period.) I go through phases with reading, but for the last two years, it has been a very heavy “reading a lot” time for me. And I love it. And ever since the Kindle first became big, I was pretty adamantly against it, and ebooks, too. Books were made to be displayed on shelves. (Rainbow order, optional, of course.) They were meant to have texture and a smell and a pretty cover. Who needs portability? Books are portable, too. I don’t need to carry around my entire library with me. Perhaps it was the preventative cost, but I wasn’t interested.
I read a lot of articles about ebooks, and I couldn’t argue how much easier traveling would be with an ereader. (Every single time I go away, even for a weekend, I pack a significantly larger number of books than I could ever read. Because the idea of running out of things to read? Is unimaginable.) And they did look kind of cool. But I didn’t want one.
Things changed a little this past fall, when we hosted an ereader expo at the library, and I spent an evening explaining the different models to the library customers, seeing them in person, reading a few pages, imagining what it would be like to have one. And realizing that reading on a screen wasn’t anywhere near as jarring or unnatural as I had always thought. And I guess I started talking about them a LOT, because although I gave Dan a few different ideas for a Christmas present, he knew he wanted to get me a Nook because I wouldn’t stop talking about it.
And, well, I never expected to like it this much. The e-ink display feels as natural as reading on paper, and although there is a subtle flash as you turn the page, I stopped noticing that very quickly. I have the black and white (classic) Nook, and although I suppose a color display like the Nook Color or the iPad is where technology is headed, I didn’t want that. I find that even my smartphone’s vivid display hurts my eyes after a while, and I mean, I read real books with the light on, so needing to have the light on while reading my Nook is not exactly a hardship. Plus, I just like the black and white e-ink. (It was a close race between the Kindle and the classic Nook; the tipping point was the ability to download free ebooks from the library – which do not work on the Kindle at all. And since I’m, you know, a librarian, I felt like I should be able to use our services.)
I have read both “real books” and ebooks since owning the Nook, and there’s a big difference. Perhaps it’s because most of my reading is on my lunch hour or in bed, but holding and turning Nook pages while eating or curled up is a lot easier than doing so with a hardcover book. (Those 900 page monstrosities I’ve been reading are not so cuddly, let’s be honest. I have dropped them on my face before.) And what I noticed this week is that having the time displayed on the screen while I’m reading the Nook is kind of convenient, as it means I never get so lost in the story that I’m late going back to work. (First world problems, I’m sure.)
The issue I don’t know that I’ll ever get past is needing to buy (almost all of) the books I read. I’m inside a library every day. Where the books are free. All of them. Yes, I can get some free ebooks through ListenNJ. (Why do you think I’ve been reading so many Nora Roberts books lately? They have a big selection! And no one can see the cover. Except everyone on the internet. Ahem.) And I can download free classics from Project Gutenberg. But at the rate I go through books, it would get really expensive to have to buy every one. Yes, it’s convenient. Yes, it’s fast. Yes, I still have gift cards from Christmas, and will ask for more at every holiday from now until forever. But. I haven’t ever been and won’t become the type to pay for every book I read.
Nor will I ever stop buying books. I cannot imagine living in a house without a LOT of books inside it.
I guess what I realized (and what changed my mind) was that I can read ebooks, but that doesn’t mean I have to stop being a “real book” lover, either. I can love the technology and still be a book purist. And I love that.
PS. The post’s title is, of course, tongue in cheek. But it is alarming how we have to retrofit our vocabulary to apply to things that have been around for hundreds of years. “Paper” books. “Real” books. As opposed to ebooks. They’re still just books.