S.G. Browne

E-Books, Schmee-Books

(A purely emotional and occasionally irrational rant against digital publishing)

Call me old school, but I think e-books and e-readers suck.  Kindles, Nooks, BeBooks.  Whatever the hell the Borders e-reader is called.  They all suck.

Why do they suck? Lots of reasons.

One, they’re helping to put brick and mortar bookstores out of business.  Maybe the neighborhood bookstore is a business model that is doomed to failure in the new technology of the 21st century, but as far as I’m concerned, a town without a bookstore is a town without a soul.  And with all of the bookstores closing over the past couple of years (which I realize is due to the economy and other factors besides just e-books), there are a lot of towns in danger of becoming soulless.

Two, I like the tactile experience of reading a book.  I like the feel of a book in my hands and the smell of the pages.  I appreciate the cover art and the colors and the textures.  E-readers lack the warmth and the personal connection to the written word.  I want to curl up with a good book, not a good electronic device.  (Insert requisite vibrator joke here.)

Three, when I go into someone’s home, I like to see the books they have on their shelves.  You learn a lot about a person from what they read and the music they listen to.  But much the same way the iPod and iTunes has all but led to the extinction of the home CD rack, with e-readers and e-books, bookshelves are going to become a thing of the past, as well.  Which will make for very sterile homes.  Plus from an egotistical POV, I want to be able to walk into someone’s home and see my book between The Great Gatsby and Cat’s Cradle.

Four, and, most important, e-readers take away the chance of me being able to see someone reading my book in a cafe or at an airport.  If you’re reading Breathers or Fated on a Kindle, I have no way of knowing, so you deny me the joy of having that moment of walking past and getting a little thrill because you’re too cheap to spend an extra few bucks for a trade paperback.

I understand that e-readers are convenient for traveling and they make taking dozens of books along on your two-week vacation a piece of cake.  I also realize the benefit of being able to download new books while lounging on Waikiki Beach or nursing an espresso in a cafe in Paris or while enjoying a mineral bath at a day spa on one of Jupiter’s moons.  It’s tough to beat on demand book delivery right to your fingertips.

But as for the argument that e-books leave a smaller carbon footprint?  E-readers are made in factories that pump out greenhouse gases and they’re composed of parts and batteries that are as biodegradable as a 1970’s polyester leisure suit.  Paperback books, conversely, are made of, oddly enough, paper, which is biodegradable.  And while paperback books are made from trees, of which I’m a fan, trees aren’t cut down to make books.  They’re cut down to make your sleigh bed and your coffee table and your desk.  The leftovers are used to make books.

By the way, my arguments against e-books and e-readers aren’t based on any empirical evidence.  I didn’t do any research in the writing of this blog because to be honest, I’m too damn lazy.  Besides, I don’t believe in using facts to back up my arguments.  Anyone can do that.  I debate purely on emotion and gross generalizations .  So don’t throw any numbers back at me to prove I’m wrong because I don’t care.  This is my blog.  Numbers don’t matter here.  Except for the fact that I get twice as much in royalties for every e-book sold as opposed to every trade paperback, which doesn’t really help to support my rant against digital publishing.  Damn it!

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Filed under: Just Blogging — S.G. Browne @ 7:58 am

14 Comments »

  1. *cancels Scott’s Nook Color Christmas present*

    I had the same argument with my husband earlier this week. Is the convenience of tucking an e-reader into your pocket worth giving up schlepping my twenty boxes of books when we move? He’s out buying one right now. Jerk.

    Comment by stace — December 9, 2010 @ 8:45 am

  2. I work in a chain bookstore and we sell ereaders and I have to agree mostly. While I don’t think it will completely destroy brick and mortar, I do hate them and loathe having to sell them vs the regular book. But I alway recommend the actual book first and despite the major sales of ereaders, I can tell you first hand as a retailer that people who buy them still buy lots of books for the most part (including Fated, which my store is currently sold out of!). So, hopefully its not the big nail in the coffin people think.

    Comment by Drew — December 9, 2010 @ 9:42 am

  3. Well, I’m of two minds about the whole thing. I LOVE books! I love walking into my local bookstores (who in return love seeing me walk in because it usually means I’m walking out spending money). I love the smell of it and the lovely people I get to converse with as we chat about new authors, new series, and new favorite reads. I love browsing all the shelves and just meandering, occasionally taking out a book to read the back cover and then deciding if it warrants a spot on my ever growing “to read” pile. I have over 600 paper books sitting in my house waiting to be read right now (and that doesn’t count the several hundred that I’ve already read).

    BUT I love my Kindle too. I love being able to get books instantly when they have been recommended to me by someone and I love having hundreds of books in my purse without killing my back. I use it primarily for free books either as classics (which I have in great big hardback tomes which look fabulous on a shelf but are a pain to read comfortably whilst curled up in bed) or new authors that I might not have picked up while browsing but this allows me to try them out and see if they are someone I want to read more from. I very rarely pay more than $1 on ebooks as if I want something enough to pay almost full price for it, odds are it’s a book I want to share with others so paper is definitely the way to go.

    So I think e-readers have a place but I definitely am not one who will quit buying paper just because I have one. I would be devastated if something happened to my local bookstores. I don’t think it’s quite the same as the music since you don’t hold the music in your hands when listening to it. I can only hope so at any rate.

    Comment by Jena D — December 9, 2010 @ 10:13 am

  4. So, you don’t want a Kindle for Christmas then?

    <3

    Comment by Rhonda — December 9, 2010 @ 12:21 pm

  5. Stace: Do I still get a present? Oh wait, you already gave me one. :)

    Drew: Great to hear a POV from someone who works in a bookstore and sells e-readers. I keep hearing about the end of bookstores and am dubious, but I certainly think it would be a travesty.

    Jena: Yes, I agree that they can co-exist and I completely understand the appeal. I’ve sat at B&N for a signing and listened to the pitch for the Nook on several occasions and was almost convinced. Almost.

    And Rhonda, all I want for Christmas is a green lit film.

    Thanks to everyone for the comments!

    Comment by admin — December 9, 2010 @ 4:03 pm

  6. I love this post, especially because you’ve based it on what you’re seeing personally, not relying on silly facts — I mean research. :P

    I’m not opposed to having or using an ereader, I just don’t have the urge to buy one right now. I’m hoping maybe my mom will pass one down when she upgrades.

    Comment by Melanie — December 9, 2010 @ 6:16 pm

  7. Facts are overrated. They get in the way of telling a good story. And thanks for loving my post.

    Comment by admin — December 10, 2010 @ 7:47 am

  8. Well, here’s a fact: I just read a library copy of Fated, and now I’m going to buy an e-book copy for my Nook, ’cause there are so many great quotes and jokes in there one reading just isn’t enough for me! So, I’m supporting you both ways. ;)

    Comment by Ben Garen — December 24, 2010 @ 9:17 am

  9. Oops… just found out, it’s not available in e-book format yet through B&N… So, I clicked on the “Tell the publisher you want this in NOOKbook format” link… now to wait… for I believe it is my destiny to own this on my Nook…

    Comment by Ben Garen — December 24, 2010 @ 9:25 am

  10. Thanks Ben! And you should be able to order FATED through your Nook, even though the sight says it’s not available in e-book format. They’ve pulled it up on Nooks at several B&Ns where I’ve done signings.

    Comment by admin — December 24, 2010 @ 10:32 am

  11. I do not have an e-Reader, but James does. I have also published some of my own work electronically. In the year since James got his e-Reader, I’ve read one book on it, and though it was convenient, it wasn’t the same. Books have been a huge part of my life. There’s something about the smell when you walk into a library or a book store that’s just plain intoxicating. My rant with e-Readers… they don’t smell like books. :(

    Comment by Jenny Beans — January 2, 2011 @ 5:32 am

  12. The funny thing is, I feel the same way about magazines. I would rather read a hard copy of Rolling Stone or Time or another publication rather than reading it on a screen. I just prefer the experience. It’s more tactile.

    Comment by admin — January 2, 2011 @ 7:39 am

  13. I’m a book reader. They don’t cost a dime bc I borrow them from the library. If it weren’t for the library, I wouldn’t be discovering some amazing stuff, such as Breathers and Fated. :)

    Comment by shirl — March 6, 2011 @ 10:29 am

  14. And I’m grateful for that. Thanks for giving them a read!

    Comment by admin — March 6, 2011 @ 11:51 am

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