Ask the grumpies: How do you feel about ebooks?

Reader asks:

I was just reading the Atlantic article “Ebooks are an Abomination” and I was wondering how you guys feel about this topic.

#1  Ebooks are an abomination and should die in a fire.  Paper books are the best!  I only have ebooks for traveling (ha! so never) and I’ve been replacing a lot of my ebooks like my Courtney Milans with paper versions.  I hate pressing the next page and being taken out of the reading experience.  For some reason actually turning a paper page doesn’t do that to me, but on an ebook it does.

#2  I like both, but I’ve been leaning a lot towards ebooks because they are good for traveling and they never smell like cigarette smoke or heavy perfume from the library and I can get them instantly instead of having to wait.  I also like being able to change (increase) the font, being able to read when it’s dark and DH is trying to sleep, and being able to just click on words I don’t know to get the definition.  I have a lot of paper books and I check them out from the library, but I do think ebooks have improved my life.  I do prefer the Paperwhite Kindle over the ipad or the kids’ Kindle Fires because I don’t like the strong backlight.  I do worry that some day amazon will just take all my books that I paid for away or the technology will go obsolescent.. but not enough to actually do something to protect me from that.  But also I’ve been looking at my current bookcases and cringing at how many of the books the Suck Fairy has visited in the past 20 years and I’m wondering if maybe it wouldn’t be as large a loss as I initially think.  There are some gems in my bookcase that aren’t still in print, but most of the stuff that is still good is also still gettable.

Grumpy Nation:  How do you feel about ebooks?

30 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: How do you feel about ebooks?”

  1. Alison Says:

    I love ebooks for fiction, and hate them for nonfiction. So all my work books are paper, even when I have to get them on interlibrary loan. My seven year old hates ebooks and wants only paper books.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      For work I prefer things I can write on! But when it’s a library book I prefer a pdf of the appropriate section that I can either write on using my ipad or that I can print out.

      • Alison Says:

        That makes sense. I don’t so much want to write as to read non-linearly, flipping back and forth between text and notes and bibliography and images. And putting in paper bookmarks to mark key bits.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yeah, that is one annoying aspect of the iPad for referee reports and why I completely gave up on the remarkable which is super slow flipping pages.

  2. nanani Says:

    I don’t really like ebooks, the only ones I have are things that are ebook-only. It’s probably just because I’ve never found a reader I actually like using. Not just about ebooks themselves.

  3. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    I love ebooks a lot because paper books hurt my wrists to hold for long periods of time and I mostly read in bed. I used to be all in on paper books exclusively, but I have several library cards that let me check out ebooks and our local library is small, plus I have a congenital joint problem so it’s only going to get worse. I need to replace my Kindle soon- it’s not working very well any more because it’s so old.

  4. omdg Says:

    E-book pros: Easy to transport, don’t take up a ton of space, can snuggle under the blankets with all but one arm, can make the font larger.
    E-book cons: Can’t flip around and re-read sections, can’t give to others when you’re done, I like the way books feel in my hands

  5. delagar Says:

    I really like being able to increase the font size and to look up words. My ancient iPad has died, though, so I’m stuck with paper books for now.

  6. CG Says:

    I prefer real books, except for travel and not waking up a sleeping partner. I will take whichever version I can get first when I’m waiting for something at the library. I think I remember paper books I’ve read better than I do e-books because my reading memory is very visual and spatial and the e-book experience takes away some of the location cues that paper books give you (where was that passage on the page spread, how far into the book was it).

  7. Kathy Says:

    One night after work, I got on the bus to commute home. This was winter in Minnesota. I found a seat, started to read, and after a while finished the last fifty pages of my book. I looked up and we had gone four blocks due to heavy traffic in a snowstorm. So I went back to page one and started again. Shortly after this, I bought a Kindle so I always have multiple books with me. Physical books are wonderful, and I buy hard copies of books that I love. Some books are easier to read in paper format. But eBooks are also wonderful – they force me to read linearly when I often flip around, and sometimes I experience the story in a different way when I can’t skip to the end and then circle back. Plus there are the joys of having a large library at my fingertips. It’s great to have so many options.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      ebooks are amazing for traveling– running out of reading material on trips when there were unexpected delays was awful before my kindle. Not to say I didn’t enjoy the books I bought in airport bookstores (mostly humorous memoirs), but there selection is often small and that’s not always an option.

  8. ccerebrations Says:

    I was pretty anti ebook until the pandemic when I couldn’t access a library. As someone on a limited budget (grad student), I can’t afford to buy a bunch of books. Also my continual moving does not support having a large book collection – they really are the worst to move. While I do still really prefer physical books the ease of accessibility and affordability (free) of checking out an ebook via Libby and sending it straight to my kindle without having to leave the house or at hours outside of the normal library hours is unbeatable.

  9. yetanotherpfblog Says:

    I love ebooks. I am an anti-physical things person so it’s nice to not have to think about where to put a book on our already cluttered shelves. Also I like being able to borrow (albeit a very limited catalog of) books from the library without leaving my house when I’m feeling like a hermit.

  10. bookishbiker Says:

    I love ebooks but I hate the kindle page-turning experience – I actually gave mine to a friend. I read on a kindle app on my phone, where the swipe-to-turn experience is a lot better.

    I very very very rarely buy books – I moved too often in my 20s and 30s, and view my library as offsite storage. My typical MO is to put stuff on hold, get it, not read it, and return it – so why pay money and store the books? I have a small pile of physical books I want and intend to read … someday… but I’m trying not to add to that pile anymore.

    I love the convenience of ebooks and have been known to download a bunch before going on a trip, even if I wind up not reading most of them. I agree with others that the reading experience isn’t as immersive, and I can’t easily remind myself about something that happened earlier in the book – physical books are so much better for flipping back. I’ve also lost the muscle for reading deeply and am working on building it up by borrowing physical books from the library.

    Our area of the country was very pandemic cautious and our physical libraries only opened to let us pick up holds ourselves 2 months ago. Before that we had to make an appointment online at least 24 hours in advance, then go stand in front of a plexiglass barrier and shout our name at someone. I haaaaaaaaaaaaated that experience. I know safety etc but it still seemed ridiculous.

  11. Lisa Says:

    At work I prefer hardcopy of whatever I’m reading, especially if I’m editing or reviewing it. I need to make notes and flip back and forth. I have learned to read journal articles online, though, and haven’t printed and filed, or referred to my old files, much in years.

    At home I like ebooks for their portability and for always having one on hand. I just read them on my phone. I do prefer a physical book if I have it, but will do either.

    But with my kids, I almost exclusively use physical books. Clearly, board books and picture books are better in person. But even my older kids seem to prefer “real” books. The few exceptions I can think of are times when we were out and about and forced to wait for something and I could read aloud to them from a book on my phone.

  12. FF Says:

    I just started reading ebooks within the past year. I’d been sort of opposed to them previously, but I’d also been reading less and less. It occurred to me last year that I would enjoy reading more with an e-reader because then I could read with the lights off in my bedroom. And I would also be able to borrow library books even when the library was closed or shut down. So I got a Kindle Paperwhite for myself late last year (Thanksgiving weekend discount) and I really love it. I am reading a lot more this year than last year, almost entirely on my Kindle, mostly but not entirely fiction. The only problem is that when I start to nod off, I sometimes drop it (usually on the carpet by the bed, but once on my face–a paperback would definitely be more comfortable).

  13. revanche @ a gai shan life Says:

    Ebooks are nearly the only way I’ve been able to read for years since the kids were born, so I’m in favor. I can also gift copies of books more easily, especially to folks who don’t keep paper books in their homes anymore. I would prefer books not from Amazon because I never want to worry about losing my digital assets, but I have been mitigating that risk a bit by shopping Kobo for myself. I wish they’d get their act together on gifting. I can’t just buy gift codes to hand out on Kobo right now. I wonder if there’s any way to hack out Kindle books we’ve bought to save them from being stolen back by Amazon.

    Someday I’ll come back to reading in paper form but it’s going to be a while. Actually holding a book is a lot harder on my hands so maybe I might not go back…
    We’ll see!

  14. accm Says:

    Paper. Paper. Paper. I am old.

  15. xykademiqz Says:

    Anything I am likely to read in a nonlinear fashion I still get on paper (textbooks; collections of stories or poems). Novels I now get pretty much exclusively as ebooks (buy or borrow on Kindle Unlimited). We are way past shelf capacity in my home (all the shelves are double stacked and there are still piles on the floor; we are planning on building a new giant shelf, but I feel it will barely make a dent), so I don’t want to add to the piles without a good reason. I actually read on my desktop (Kindle reader for desktop) which is perfect (I’ve started having to wear reading glasses for the small print in books — getting old sucks!). If I really like an ebook, I might buy it if I first rented from Kindle Unlimited or just buy paperback if I love it so much I think it’s worth the extra clutter.

  16. teresa Says:

    Ebooks are my favorite and pretty much all I’ve bought in almost 12 years. Because
    -I like to own books instead of using the library and there’s not space that many physical books in my 1000sf house
    -Can read at night without having a light that has to be turned off/bothers my husband
    -Easier to hold and flip pages one-handed
    -Can sit on a flat surface without something holding it open and takes up less space doing so, and pages can be changed with my elbow if my hands are full/dirty
    -Can make font size small and eliminate margins to fit more on a page
    -Travel. I used to need a whole backpack of books for a week trip and two readers is still smaller and lighter than even one book.
    -Any book available immediately anywhere with wifi
    -Never running out of things to read
    -Can “borrow” books from my geographically distant parents by using their kindle account
    -If people can’t see what I’m reading they can’t talk to me about it

    I very much prefer e-ink to LED and use the B&N equivalent to the paperwhite, but will use an ipad (mini) to access books my parents bought.
    The only two things I dislike:
    -The links for going to footnotes and back to text can be finicky and annoying
    -If I’m reading the kind of book that needs giant family trees in the front to keep track of how all the characters are related, it’s not easy to flip back to that

  17. Alice Says:

    For me, ebooks have a role, but it’s a different one than a paper book.

    Most of the books that I’ve read over the last 5 years have been ebooks. At first, it was because I had a baby who hated to be in the car and a trip to the library was not worth the level of crying. Later, it was because it was so easy to get ebooks and not have to worry about returning them to the library on time. Plus they’re easier to read without a lot of fuss. Standing in a long line? Ebook. Half-asleep sick kid leaning on me while she’s watching toddler cartoons? Ebook. The negative for ebooks is that I’ve long-since finished all of the library’s books by reliably good authors and have been stuck picking things at random, some of which have turned out to be truly awful. I do sometimes get books from reliably good authors as they’re released, but the back catalog of ebooks is not as deep and not as good.

    I don’t usually buy ebooks, except when I have enough Amazon slow-ship credits to cover the expense. And at those times, I don’t usually pick books that I would or could buy on paper. Either ones that are not easily accessible in print or not ones that I trust that I’d like enough to want to give them shelf space.

    I like paper books better for books that I like enough to own. And I do actually prefer reading paper books– I remember them better and they’re more reliably well-written. I also like the experience of being able walk stacks in libraries and bookshelves in bookstores to find something random and new– trying to find something good at random among ebooks is more hit or miss and takes longer. I’m more likely to buy a paper book than I am to buy an ebook, but my standards for buying a paper book are higher, because I want more certainty that it’s something I want to own and reread.

  18. Debbie M Says:

    I’m more like #2 but prefer paper books. So much of modern life is really about renting things that can be stolen or changed out of recognition (admittedly, more for programs and games than for books). So if I love a book, I buy it in paper, even though it is still subject to loss due to fire or water.

    But I do like looking up words easily with e-books (unless the dictionary is just stupid, because you can’t look up words in the definition), and I like the idea that I can make the words bigger when I need to, and I like reading in bed at night without bothering my boyfriend, and I like having loads of books available while traveling.

    My boyfriend reads e-books only these days. So I get books from him and read those at night. Then I’m also usually in the middle of a light book and a heavier (note-taking) book in paper.

    I have an IPad with a kindle app and another book reading app. I can’t figure out a way to check out library books to read that way–I can only read them on my computer, and ugh, I already do enough other stuff on the computer, so I do that only when I really want to read a book and can’t easily get it free any other way.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      If your library uses overdrive sometimes you can read the ebook within the overdrive app on the library overdrive on the iPad. (Both the libraries I get ebooks from use overdrive.)

      • Alice Says:

        You can also read overdrive books on your phone. I use an Android, and it works well. The only drawback is that you can only read a particular book on the device where you downloaded it.

        I think there was a time when Overdrive allowed same book/multiple devices, but it doesn’t seem to be an option anymore. (Or I’m misremembering, and it never did.)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        For anything but pdf only I don’t have to download the book from overdrive to read it in overdrive. Pdf only won’t open in overdrive either. :(

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