Column: Why books are better than e-books

By Paola Crespo

Technology continues to advance and with it, sadly, the publishing industry. More and more stories and novels have been published online rather than in print. With this digitalization of literature, devices such as the Amazon Kindle have emerged to allow readers to download e-books and read them on touch screen tablets. The idea of e-books is to reduce the amount of space books take up and to allow readers to have access to all of their books in one place. It also reduces the cost of publishing, which with the process of printing, packaging and distributing, can greatly increase the price of books. I am all for innovation and the advancement of technology, but I am saddened by the change from printed books to e-books.

I for one will never buy a Kindle or other such device to read books. I hate reading stories or novels on a screen no matter how nice and high definition it is. I like to actually hold the novel in my hands and be able to smell the pages (yes, I love the smell of books; each one is different.) I can flip through its pages, write notes, underline words or sentences that intrigue me and even dog ear pages. It makes the story more interactive, more tangible. Watching the binding begin to crease and seeing the physical evidence of my consumption of the story gives me great satisfaction. I am aware that Kindles and other tablets have functions where you can underline and bookmark etc., but it’s just not the same. Somehow, an underlined word on a touch screen isn’t the same without tracing the pen or pencil under it with your own hand. Passing your finger across the screen to change pages isn’t the same as flipping through a printed book and hearing the rustle of the pages turning. The digital bookmark icon does not have the same meaning as the real bookmark my grandma bought for me before she passed away.

How about that feeling you get when you walk into a library or your favorite bookstore or, even better, a new bookstore or library you encounter on a vacation? Seeing shelves upon shelves lined with books of all shapes, sizes and colors gives any book lover a thrill. This is where you can roam, surrounded by literature and find new books and genres that may interest you. A list of downloadable books on a screen where you scroll through the titles can’t provide that same feeling.

Sharing your reading experience is also hard to do with an e-book on a tablet. With a real book you can physically pass along the story to others. Doing so with an e-book can put you at risk of copyright infringement. You can also create memories with real books. I remember where and when I bought most of my books and who I was with when I got them. Where and when I download an e-book doesn’t have the same importance. I also remember where my books have journeyed. If I am reading a book it goes everywhere with me: in my purse, in my car, at the airport, in the airplane, at school, in doctors’ offices, at coffee shops etc. Yes, sometimes books may be big and heavy compared to the lighter, easier-to-carry tablets, but that doesn’t bother me. It gives me comfort feeling its weight in my purse and seeing its cover peeking out, reminding me of the great story I carry with me.

As a writer, I also dislike the idea of digital copies of books. After the hard work put into a novel or story, the satisfaction of sending it to a publisher, having hundreds of copies printed and seeing your work displayed on bookshelves in bookstores is not the same as being published online. Having your book in print means you can touch it, feel it, smell it. It’s a part of you out there in the world. If it’s online it’s less personal. A little image of the book on a digital shelf on a touch screen just doesn’t feel right. Likewise as a reader, I want to see my collection of books on a big bookshelf in my room, not all in one place on a tablet where I have to scroll down to find my copy of Pride and Prejudice.

People tell me that the printing industry is dying and that I need to move with the times. I say no. Just because we are in a digital age does not mean we must relinquish our printed literature. I will always love my books. You will find me in a bookstore wandering the aisles for my next read, not online downloading a book from a Kindle.

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