Can’t book-lovers all just get along?
You would think that ten years after the advent of the Kindle, we would have reached a sort of detente by now—and yet I still run across anti-ebook articles every time I turn around. The latest culprit is Lifehacker’s Patrick Lucas Austin, with a post warning readers that before they drop their hard-earned $249 on the new Kindle Oasis, they might want to consider that “Study after study show that reading on screens is, for various reasons, inferior to reading on paper.”
It’s odd to see such a luddite turn from Lifehacker, which is usually devoted to showing how various new bits of technology can make people’s lives easier. This piece rehashes several of the old “smell of books” arguments: that paper books are more memorable, that taking notes on paper works better than making digital notes, and that glowy screens keep you up at night.
Even if I assume these points are accurate (the retention argument actually isn’t as clear as Austin suggests), it’s hard to see what they have to do with the way most people use their Kindles. Austin seems to assume that the only people who are going to drop $249 on an e-reader are college students who think it will help them study, whereas I suspect that far more Kindle purchasers are interested in reading for enjoyment. And to those people, such anti-Kindle arguments simply don’t apply.
I’m not all that concerned about retention of a fiction book I’m reading for fun. Indeed, I’ll probably enjoy it more on a reread if I did retain less and can encounter all the good parts fresh all over again. And I’m not generally one for taking notes on my Kindle, either. Why would I bother laboriously tapping something in with the Kindle’s one-letter-at-a-time keyboard? (Now, if Amazon were to implement a swiping keyboard like Swype or Swiftkey, that might make note-taking on Kindle more useful.)
And when it comes to the point about “light-emitting ereaders” keeping people awake at night, the article really is all wet. The anti-night-reading pieces Austin links talk about tablets, which use backlit LCD screens. However, the Kindle Oasis and other Kindle e-readers use front-lighting, which reflects light off the e-ink screen—just as you would do if you used a reading lamp on a paper book. So, this is a great argument against reading from a tablet or smartphone at night, but actually one that favors reading from an e-ink Kindle.
And, of course, Kindles have all sorts of benefits that Austin doesn’t even touch on, such as the ability to make text larger (or, with the Oasis and new firmware for older Kindles, bolder) to compensate for failing eyesight, or to carry around hundreds of books at once. Why focus on Kindles’ drawbacks while ignoring all their advantages?
Which brings me back to my original point: can’t we all just get along? I don’t know of very many Kindle owners who cut paper books entirely out of their lives. Just because you prefer Kindles doesn’t mean you can’t also read a lot of paper, or vice versa. Why is it necessary for book-lovers to try to tear the Kindle down? I’d think that anyone who wants to see books flourish ought to be happy that people are still reading at all, regardless of how they do it.
I couldn’t agree more.
It is amazing how seemingly nothing at all can change without a certain percentage of people actively attacking the change.
If people don’t like e-books, that is their business. They are not going to change my mind. I am not about to try to change theirs.
Had a cousin not sent me a used Kindle Fire, I would probably still be a hard copy person. Within a month of receiving the Kindle Fire, I purchased a Nook Simple Touch- which wasn’t my last such purchase.
Since then, I have read many more e-books than print books. I purchase several print books a year, for two reasons: it isn’t available as an e-book, or I couldn’t resist the $2 cost at the local used bookstore. (Used to be $1, but the $4 Amazon price meant that raising the price to $2 wouldn’t reduce demand.)
Reduced physical space is convenient. Though I have not cleared many books off my bookshelves so far, I have added much less to them than before. The main reason for my preferring e-books is the ability to change fonts. Bold is much better for my eyesight- which was never good.
My cousin tells me that after she broke her wrist, it was not convenient to hold a heavy print book. So there is another reason for preferring e-books.
I still have some of my STEM textbooks. I made notes in a lot of them. (Having an aversion to writing, I took as few non-STEM courses as possible.) I would agree that the ability to make notes in textbooks aids learning. I would also agree that it is much more convenient to make notes on paper than it is on an e-text.
Typing notes with a standard keyboard into a device- I will leave that discussion for another time, though I would point out that it ismuch easier to write out chemical or mathematical equations by hand than by keyboard.
The outrageous prices of most contemporary textbooks suggests that digital copies of textbooks would be preferable- especially when there are many digital textbooks at little or no cost to students. Solution: make notes on paper for digital textbooks. Yes, it is inconvenient, but it is less inconvenient than making notes on the digital copy.
A 9.7″ or bigger screen would be preferable for STEM textbooks which have a lot of equations or symbols.
Quote: “Study after study show that reading on screens is, for various reasons, inferior to reading on paper.”
I don’t need studies to understand myself and that’s certain true for me. I suspect its because our minds are great at make spacial memories so we can find our way about the woods. Fixed pages allow us to do that with what we read. Not everyone may have that, but I do. Tiring of reading ebooks that did not stick in my mind, I’ve gone back to print, saving money by buying used.
And for light reading, I’ve turned to the free audiobooks created by Librivox and listen to with the better-organized Loyal Books app. I also subscribe to the Classic Tales podcast. Free and read by a pro, it acquaints me with authors I might not otherwise know about. You can listen with any podcast app.
Quote: “However, the Kindle Oasis and other Kindle e-readers use front-lighting, which reflects light off the e-ink screen…”
Not so. Light is made up of photons. Direct or bouncing makes no difference. And if that light looks white on reflection, then it contains a lot of blue, which is known to mess with sleep. Reading under a red light certainly makes my sleep come quicker. Starting at my computer screen after 8 pm does the opposite.
Amazon needs to quit piddling around and give their ereaders a read-in-red mode.
If that’s the case, then people shouldn’t be reading brightly lit paper books before going to bed either, so that’s another way paper books aren’t actually any better than the Kindle
Approaching 30, I got my first Kindle (the Oasis v1) just a year ago and upgraded last week. I love the *idea* but what I resent most is the rights management of such purchases. I buy a book then it is mine forever, to do what I want. With this Kindle I only own an extremely limited license. I use calibre to manage my library but changing the format to epub and archiving them locally has made me as much a criminal as much as any movie or software pirate. I fear I am contributing to this transition yet the luxury of being able to store hundreds if not thousands of books is too tantalizing to resist.
Amazon also works against people like me, as do other device makers which make profit from a bookstore. An ereader is great but these are devices meant to create a dependency on a single platform to change the way we store and share the books we purchased.