I just finished a three-book series (you’ll never guess which) that I consumed entirely on an iPad.
I have never before read a book digitally. I’m a first-timer when it comes to e-readers, though I have dabbled in listening to books on tape. Audio books, while convenient for multi-tasking purposes, still felt lacking to me for all the reasons I have always loved reading good old-fashioned paper and ink books—the great musty smell, the heft of the pages, the way the whole book changes from crisp and untouched to worn and well-loved through the course of my enjoyment.
Reasons that have since been reinforced by my foray into iPad-reading.
Let me pause here and just say, I was bowled over by the ease and affordability of ordering books digitally. Talk about instant gratification! The late-night bookstore near my house was already closed, and I got my book anyway. For a compulsive reader such as myself, this was a huge revelation.
However, I realized very quickly that for the kind of reader I am, an iPad or other fancy (read: expensive to replace) e-reader simply won’t do. They demand a level of care and caution that a traditional book simply doesn’t require, unless it is a prized first edition or a borrowed copy (though I keep away from borrowing books for reasons that will become apparent).
When I read, that book is my companion and it goes with me everywhere, no matter what I am doing. Reading on an iPad or similar device makes this kind of constant, compulsive reading impractical and, frankly, reckless.
Reading while cooking has the obvious dangers of fire, water, and flying meat bits. Reading while falling asleep almost guarantees a face print on the screen (chamois please!). As this was a borrowed iPad, reading in the bathtub was strictly verboten.
So worried was I about the iPad, lest it slide to the floor or fall in a boiling vat of soup (or bath salts), that I found myself gripping it very firmly while I read. On an iPad, at least, the interface understands this firm grip as, “I’d like to turn the page, please, and fast!” This happened a lot. I’d be carefully (nervously) reading and suddenly I was inadvertently fast forwarding or rewinding pages by the dozens.
I longed for my cracked-spine paperbacks, to which a little marinara or drool only added a little character. And these beloved tomes, which have moved hither and thither from home to home, do not and will never require a power cord.
I know, crank crank crank. That’s me! While I sit up here on my antiquated old soapbox with my typewriter and turntable, I totally recognize that for fast readers like myself, digital readers are a travelers’ dream.
I am notorious for taking big heavy books on long trips with me. I took my new copy of Deathly Hallows to Africa. The guide looked at me like I was insane. (A book?! There’s a lion!) More recently, I lugged the signed 10th-anniversary edition of American Gods to Ireland. It’s a crazy thing to do, I know, defying all logic and norms of convenience and efficiency.
So, no more stacks of reading material incurring airline overage fees or—horror—getting forgotten in the seat-back pocket upon deplaning. No more getting stranded in a remote fishing village without any unread books or a brick and mortar store from which to buy more. I get that. And I may just use the e-reader for that very purpose, even if it does mean I have nowhere to stick my handy NaNoWriMo donor thank you bookmark, and I am constantly eye-twitching over how said device will meet its end.
But when I am home, stirring some dinner or passing out mid-sentence, I’ll happily be ruining a page of great-smelling, perfectly textured, delightfully absorbent paper.
What are your thoughts on the pros and cons of e-readers?