E-books are brilliant. I don’t like e-books. These two statements sum up my feelings about e-books, and rather than try to resolve the paradox by choosing one side or another, I’m going to let the paradox stand and be a thing in itself.
When I am waiting at the doctor’s surgery (she’s always late, but I keep going because she is a great doctor and has long, curly, red hair like a medieval princess), I don’t need to read the trashy magazines about Melissa Doyle and how fat I am. I have e-books on my phone, always ready to go. I’ve read mostly nonfiction like Tina Fey’s autobiog on my phone, and a couple of J. R. Ward erotic vampire novels. I have been eyeing off a Kindle for a while. Traveling overseas recently, I was very aware of how bulky and heavy books are. It wasn’t a thing I’d noticed before. And, as Kimberley Freeman, I’ve sold a metric shitload of e-books. Apparently romance is a genre in which e-books are super popular. I’ve made mucho dollars from e-books.
E-books are brilliant.
But I don’t like e-books.
Or rather, they don’t give me the lovely feeling that real books do. A book has always been such a tactile, sensual pleasure for me: the feel of the pages, the cover, the smell. I miss these things if I don’t have them. It’s like 20% of the joy of reading is missing. Walking into a bookstore (if I can find one) still fills me with a feeling of magnificent promise. All those stories, all around me, contained between gorgeous covers with smooth spines just waiting to be cracked, pages to pore over and thumb and dog-ear. It’s like I want to rub myself all over them (sorry if that’s TMI).
And e-books don’t remember you the way real books do. Look at this photograph. I found this book in a secondhand bookshop when I was a child, and was entranced by the idea that somebody had owned it in the 1940s. As soon as I got it home, I wrote my own name (and proposed pseudonym at the time) in the front, with the date I bought it. I loved that book so much (I blogged about it here: The Romance of Work) and I still have it. Of course. With my inscription and the original inscription intact. Those inscriptions, that history that I have with the book, make it more special. And you simply can’t do that with an e-book.
I am fine with not coming down on one side or the other over e-books. I’m not fence sitting. I am actively choosing not to choose, because I enjoy different books for different reasons. If all e-books disappeared from the world today, I would mourn their loss. If all print books disappeared, I would mourn their loss too (perhaps a little more). E-books are brilliant; I just don’t like them. And that’s my final position on the matter.
Any other conscientious objectors out there who refuse to take sides?