When I was four, I would clear off bookshelves and sleep in them. As a teenager, I would hold my head sideways to read rows of spines, remembering the stories and theories I’d read in each book, and I would imagine some new friend coming into my room and being oh-so-impressed by all of the very cool titles I had amassed. (Of course, that never did happen.) There are eight bookcases in the room where I am right now, all crammed top to bottom with hardbacks and paperbacks and the occasional binder or notebook.
But if you give me a choice, I’ll take an ebook almost every time.
I know, I know, ebooks don’t give you the same visual or tactile or olfactory experience. Maybe not even the same cognitive one, since people might comprehend and retain less from ebooks, though the jury is still out on that. I also have no problem admitting that some books need to be bound: children’s books and Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters Remix come to mind.
And there’s an even deeper argument from some corners of the indie scene, where print books are recognized as a way to circumvent the censorship and homogenization of culture perpetrated by Amazon.
Is there guilt, then, in preferring ebooks? Not really. If a book I want comes out from a press that only does paper, I’ll buy it. Good for them for taking a stand. If a book I want comes out from a press that releases it in paper and then three months later as an ebook, I’ll wait, and sometimes forget.
Why do I opt for ebooks then? Because I love my e-reader. Not like an “I am very fond of this device” kind of love, but like an “I feel connected to it at all times by an invisible cord” kind of love. (Don’t tell, but I might love it more than my phone.)
I love that it’s small and portable and water-resistant. Reading in the bath is my nerd-version of a spa day. I love that I can change the published font if it’s hard to read. I love that I can make that font huge if my eyes are tired. I love that I can take it anywhere and nobody knows what I’m reading; that I can set it down and keep reading without having to perch something on the opposite page to keep it from closing; that if I fall asleep it keeps my place.
Let’s go back to guilt. There is no guilt if I decide to stop reading an ebook. It does not sit on the shelf looking sullen. And let’s be honest, life is too short to finish every book you start. Some books suck.
There is no guilt in highlighting or making notes in an ebook, and I do not have to tolerate my spouse’s incredulity when he sees me defile a page in a paper- or hardback book, and defile I do. (Except library books. I’m not a monster.) Plus, ebooks are easier on the budget and the forests.
I have eight full bookcases in this room and no room for anymore. And I am not the only reader who lives here! Ebooks give me access to far more books than my small house can accommodate. With ebooks, I can fit 400 books in my backpack. So when it’s time to bug out, hit the road, go underground or get on the spaceship because the planet is no longer habitable, and other people are asking, “Which three books should I bring?” I will have all of my ebooks—at least for a while. Of course I’ll also bring along Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends and Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters Remix, because some books really do have to be bound.