“Does the world suck, or is it just me?”
I’m going to ask myself this every time I feel like making another rant on the internet, because I’ve just come across a beautiful example of failing to ask exactly this sort of question before putting fingers to keys and sharing with the world.
John C Abell wrote on Wired.com:
I have never owned an e-book reader, because I have an ingrained opposition to single-purpose devices.
I love this argument. Because what is a physical book, really, but a single-purpose device? (I’m saving the real argument that there is no such thing as a single purpose device or object for a later date.)
The rest of his article “Five Reasons Why E-Books Aren’t There Yet” also reveals a charming, naive, very iPad-centric view of the world. I don’t mean to criticise, John, really; I think it’s gorgeous. I fully admit that ebooks and ereaders aren’t for everyone. There’s nothing wrong with that. Nevertheless, I want to reproduce John’s five reasons here in case you, dear reader, also suffer the same doubts about digital books.
1) An unfinished e-book isn’t a constant reminder to finish reading it.
2) You can’t keep your books all in one place.
Goodreads.com can help in both these cases. Especially if you’re an iPad user who might not be able to use calibre. I love Goodreads because it lets me keep track of all the books I’ve read from the library, as well as what’s on my physical and digital bookshelf. When I start an ebook, I tag it as currently-reading and then I can easily see how long I’ve taken to get through it, maybe even demote it back to to-read.
calibre lets you organise and manage all of your ebooks. It can search the web for metadata for ebooks you already own, trawl through international ebook sellers and give you a list of titles and prices to easily go comparison shopping and convert your ebooks from one format to another. While you can’t use it like Goodreads to keep track of every single digital and physical book you come across (or maybe you can? I admit I haven’t tried to use it this way yet), it is an excellent piece of software for managing your entire digital library. So, yes, all your ebooks can be in the same place.
3) Notes in the margins help you think.
I’d argue that this is a matter of personal preference rather than anything defective about ebooks. And even if margin notes do help you think, perhaps you’re not always reading to think, but to relax?
I admit possible bias in this matter, because I have never felt it appropriate to make margin notes. I always have a notebook on hand to scribble down the page number and line if I want to make some commentary or write down an idea.
4) E-books are positioned as disposable, but aren’t priced that way.
Not having paid for an ebook yet, I can’t really comment on their pricing, but I didn’t realise they were positioned as any more disposable than another other book format. In fact, I’d be less likely to delete a digital book than get rid of a real one. My digital storage capacity just keeps on going up, while the bookshelves in my house are pretty much at capacity. In fact, this was one of the reasons I took the leap into getting an ebook reader and embracing digital reading. My bookshelves now are going to be reserved for those books who really can’t make the leap into digital – reference books, picture books, treasured favourites now long out of print but not out of copyright.
5) E-books can’t be used for interior design.
I… I didn’t know that was one of the key functions of physical books that needed to be replicated in their digital counterparts.
If you want to share books you’ve read and liked with your friends, again, you can definitely do that on Goodreads. If you want to start a conversation with your houseguests, you can do it the old fashioned way:
“Hey, have you read —? I just finished it.”
Speaking of which: have you read the latest article about ebooks on Wired.com? And what did you think?