I Moved to eBooks…Oh, What a Mistake.

One year ago, I justified the purchase of an iPad to my wife by saying that the money I’d save on eTextbooks would more than pay for the device itself.  Of course, while this was true, it was a misleading statistic to rationalize the procurement of the fastest selling piece of technology, ever.  Not only would all my textbooks be searchable, annotatable (it’s a word!), and copy-and-paste-able, but I would get all the great apps.

What I had my non-education eye on the most was iBooks.  For a few years, I’ve been wanting to make the switch to eBooks.  Like the iPod did for my CD collection, the Amazon Kindle and Sony eReader could do for my books; however, while the appeal of carrying all my books on one device was enticing, it still was a particular, single-us, proprietary gadget that I’d have to find room for in my gadget bag (which is already overrun with iPods, cameras, a DS, comic books {yes, comic books}, and countless cables).  For the price, it just didn’t seem like a good fit for my lifestyle.

But, the iPad was perfect.  Yes, more expensive, but it also replaced my dying iPhone 3G as an App-enabled device.  I was able to use it for Internet surfing, apps, e-mail, Twitter, and of course, books.  I jumped in with both feet, buying up the last few remaining Christopher Moore books I’ve yet to read.  My first book to be read on the iPad was A Dirty Job.  I had a difficult time getting through it.  At the time, I thought it might have been the book itself.  It certainly takes a while to get started, with a very slow middle third; but, I mustered through it (it’s final third, very good), and prided myself on finishing my first eBook.

Then, I stared at the rest of my iBooks library, and sighed.  I didn’t want to start another.  That’s not how I am.  I will actually start anticipating my next book while still finishing my current book, as if I’m thinking about ice cream while finishing up my meatloaf.  That didn’t happen this time.

Why?  I thought, at the time, that perhaps I just don’t have time to read anymore.  I thought that, maybe, I’ve trained myself to only be able to focus for small bursts at a time (something I’ve discussed before).  Then, while planning for a dry camping trip to Yosemite (i.e. no electricity), I realized that I would have ample time to read, yet my iPad would not last the entire vacation.  So, while at CostCo, I picked up Game of Thrones, hoping to finally power through the beast of a novel that I never got to fully finish in high school.

While on my trip, I could only think of reading it.  While reading it, I would completely ignore my surroundings (a difficult thing to do in Yosemite); and, when not reading it, all I would do is stare off in anticipation of the next time my pulpy love and I would be reunited.  It would pain me to see it sitting on the bed of my motorhome, while I was forced to spend quality time playing cards and telling ghost stories with my children.  It had become my mistress, my great distraction, and my family would surely suffer from it, and they would need to understand, because it’s a book.

That’s when I realized that while the iPad is an amazing device, and its potential is constantly being expanded, it can never be a book.  Holding that book in my hands — the smell of the paper, the artwork, the feel of the pages — I could instantly sense that it was what my great iPad could never be.

Now, as I’m finishing up Game of Thrones, and looking to take a whimsical break, and knock out another Christopher Moore novel, I’m thinking of actually rebuying the books that I already purchased on the iBooks store.  It’s not the glare from the screen (as most people feel) that has me reconsidering.  It’s not the battery life, or the feeling of looking at a computer screen and destroying my eyes (that’s already happened, thanks to actual computer screens, and reading in low light for so many years).  Truthfully, it’s the tradition.

That Good Ole' Book Smell

This doesn’t mean I’ll never read an eBook again — the pricing, alone, makes it a consideration for many titles.  But, for those books that I know I’ll devour and fall in love with, I want it to be with a real thing, an object of reality, an item for me to own, and to have ownership over me as only a book with ink and pages can do.

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6 Responses

  1. I’ve been thinking about trying out an e-reader but I’m almost positive I will have the same reaction that you have just described. I need the physical book.

  2. I still use my iPad for some reading, mostly autobiographies, or books that are quick reads for me; however, for those must-have, love to stare at on my bookshelf novels, they can’t be replaced!

  3. I sooooooo agree. I had the same experience at the beach…just couldn’t relax and dig my toes in the sand at the same time because I was worrying about that same sand getting in my expensive i pad!! So I read the help, “smelling the pages” as you put it! 🙂

  4. Use a pure e reader like Kindle instead of iPad. First of all, iPad with all its apps, games and other features is too distracting. Also, the screen is too shiny to give a feeling of a “paper read”. Kindle screen, on the other hand, looks like paper and since its a standalone device, there are no distractions. Battery life is long enough to survive without charge for 15-20 days.

    However, I still miss the smell of the pages. But with the ability to purchase books anytime and getting them within 60 seconds and the ability to carry all my books with me all the time, I am willing to let go the the paper smell 🙂

    Cheer!
    Ashutosh

  5. I prefer print for small books however the iPad is amazing for large books which simply get tiring to hold for extended periods of time. After I read “Into the Silence” about George Mallory’s Mount Everest expeditions in the 1920s and “Bloodlands” on my iPad I was shocked by how heavy those books were when I saw them on display at a bookstore.

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