Fifteen Reasons Ebooks are Better than Print

Sitting on the Tube last week (Circle line, St. James' Park to Liverpool Street, if you must know) I was struck by something about my fellow travellers. There were eight of us in the carriage (so, not rush-hour) and six were reading books. But there wasn't a single book. Two had Kindles, one had a Nook, two more were reading on i-pads and one was using a smartphone. The twenty-first century has well and truly arrived in subterranean London.

So I was a little surprised to see certain comments on a competition in which an author was giving away several copies of his ebook as a prize. Many people were complaining that they didn't like ebooks and would rather have a physical copy, so they weren't entering the competition. I was, frankly, mystified by their attitude, because what's not to love about ebooks?

Now don't get me wrong, I love print books too. I love the smell of a new book, and the smell of an old book. I love flicking through the pages to snatch a glimpse of what's to come, and I love going back and devouring the cover art once I've read it to see what part of the story it depicts. But I'm not about to turn down a free ebook just because I like the weight of a physical book in my hands.

There is much I don't like about physical books:

  1. Pages get torn, dog-eared or illegible with dirt.  
  2. Unless you are very good with a bookmark (and who can ever find one of them when you actually need it?) you have to waste precious reading time trying to find your page. 
  3. You can lose them. On holiday last year we had to buy another copy of The Hunger Games because my eldest daughter had left it somewhere and couldn't bear not to know what happened next.
  4. They are heavy. Every schoolchild with a rucksack full of textbooks knows that, next to water, books are about the heaviest thing to have to lug around.
  5. You have to have space to store them. We have an entire alcove in our lounge and another bookshelf in the hall given over to books, but most books I have had to give away to charity shops because I just don't have the space to store them.
  6. You have to be able to find them. Do you organise your bookshelf by genre, or alphabetically by author? Or maybe (like me) by the size of the shelf and which books will fit on it?
  7. Once your eyesight starts going (sometime when you're as young as 44!) you have to buy large print books or reading glasses or bifocals in order to be able to see them properly.
  8. If you come across a section which particularly inspires or impresses you, you have to choose between writing it down somewhere or defacing the book.
  9. Everyone can tell what you're reading. Not that I would ever dream of reading that appalling Fifty Shades obscenity (now there's a waste of paper) but it gets awkward when you're waiting for a business meeting to start and your fellow professionals can see that you're reading The Magic Faraway Tree. 
  10. Books are expensive. They cost a lot in postage because they are so heavy, and although they don't attract VAT (tax) the cost of printing means that it's unusual to find one below £5.
  11. If it's no good, you can't get a refund. Several years ago I bought a book by my favourite diet guru, only to discover that it was largely a rehashing of her last book. Annoyed, I took it back to the shop to complain but of course I couldn't get a refund. "You might have read it," the shop assistant protested. "I have," I replied, "It was no good, that's why I want a refund." No refunds on books, apparently, ever. That's pretty standard.
  12. It's really difficult to get LDS books here in the UK. They are printed in America and have to be shipped over, which can cost upwards of $20 per book, and then extra if they get waylaid in customs.

Whereas...

  1. Ebooks are always pristine, and the last page is never missing.
  2. My Kindle opens each one of the hundreds of books in its library to the last page I read.
  3.  I can't lose any of my ebooks. They are all stored in my Amazon account. If I get a new Kindle it'll take just five minutes to transfer all my books to my new device. If I lose it somewhere it's not convenient or possible to buy another one, I can still read all my books on my smartphone, laptop or PC.Kindles are apparently not targets for thieves either because each one is registered to its owner via Amazon which makes them very difficult for the thief to sell on.
  4. My Kindle weighs less than my purse and fits in my handbag
  5. I have several hundred books on my Kindle. Storage space - see point 4
  6. My Kindle is organised into collections, and if I want to find a particular book there's a quick and nifty search facility.
  7. I can enlarge the font on my Kindle.
  8. On my Kindle I can not only highlight section and make notes, but see how many other people have highlighted the same line, and ask for a list of all the sections I highlighted. I can also delete my highlights and notes, or choose not to have them show.
  9. No one knows what I'm reading on my Kindle except me. And the commuters sitting either side of me on the Tube.
  10. Ebooks do carry VAT, to my extreme annoyance–there's probably a petition to sign somewhere–and yet are generally far, far cheaper than the printed version.
  11. Ebooks are another story though. A book I bought on Amazon just last week turned out to have rather more swearing than I like. A few clicks, and Amazon had refunded me my £3.60 and deleted the book from my device.
  12. A book available in America is (usually) available in the UK too at a comparable price, and instantly downloadable.
  13. You can hold the book and turn the pages with one hand. One digit on one hand. 
  14. You can download free samples if you're not sure the book is for you
  15. It switches itself off if you fall asleep while reading. 

I was a little unsure about the Kindle at first, in particular how it would compare with the precious and wonderful experience of reading a book. I found that after about a minute I forgot about it. The Kindle reading experience is maybe best described as looking at a normal book page in a discreet and elegant frame. The battery lasts for several weeks, and rumour is that the cheapest Kindle (currently £69) will eventually be offered free by Amazon, because, of course, they want you to buy books from them and giving you a Kindle enables you to do so.

So I'm at a loss to know why anyone would turn down the option of a free ebook. Anyone care to enlighten me?

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