Friday, November 21, 2014

Coffee, Tea or...E-Reader?

Have you switched to reading mostly ebooks or do you still hanker for the feel of a bound book in your hands? How would you prefer to have your books published?

by Paul D. Marks

I buy and read both e-books and paper books (in both paperback and hardback).  And I’d say I read about ¾ paper books to ¼ e-books.  Some books, of course, are only available as e-books so you have no choice.  But of books that are available in each format, I’d say that ratio is about 3 to 1.

Maybe because I’m of a generation that grew up with paper books, it’s simply what I’m used to and what I like.  That aside, there are other reasons to like paper books better.  But first, the things I like about e-books. Obviously you can store about 10 trillion of them on your iPad, Kindle, Nook or whatever you use, so particularly when traveling you can take a variety of books with you.  And since I generally have at least one non-fiction and one fiction book going at the same time, I can carry one iPad instead of two books.  Also on that iPad are magazines that I subscribe to and now don’t have to carry. And a variety of other books, so if I finish what I’m reading or just get bored with it, I have many other choices to go to, including the complete set of Classics Illustrated comic books, which I bought on DVD and transferred to my iPad.  I read and loved them as a kid, but have only read two or three since I bought the collection years ago on disc.  But somehow they’re still comforting to have there. 

There’s also a certain immediacy with e-books. You can read in the dark or buy an e-book in the middle of the night on a whim.  And there’s also certain kinds of books that I’d just as soon read on an e-reader, like manuals and other such things.  One major advantage of e-books is less clutter.  We’re running out of shelf space and have books overflowing off the shelves and have even more shelves in the garage. Maybe we should start a lending library?

But despite all the cool things about e-books, I still prefer paper books for several reasons. The main one being the tactile sensation.  The heft of them, the smell.  The overall feel. All the sensory things you don’t get with an e-book. On hardbacks, I also like to read the jacket copy, front, back and inside. I like reading the short summary of the story, the author bio and whatever other goodies are there.  I miss that on many paperbacks as well as e-books. 

And lately there have been reports saying that when one reads a book in electronic form readers don’t absorb as much information as when reading traditional books. And since most of us here are mystery readers and writers, check this from The Guardian, August 19, 2014: “A new study which found that readers using a Kindle were ‘significantly’ worse than paperback readers at recalling when events occurred in a mystery story is part of major new Europe-wide research looking at the impact of digitisation [sic] on the reading experience.” (itals added)

Both types of books can be easily highlighted.  But I also like to write notes in the margins. And it’s much more of a pain to type a note on a Kindle or other e-reader. But an advantage of the e-reader is being able to highlight a word and look it up in the dictionary. That is a very cool feature. But not enough to make me want to read more e-books.

My novel, White Heat, has sold a lot more e-books than paper, though I’d prefer if it was the other way around.  Not for the money, but for the feeling (whether real or imaginary) of something solid and permanent.  Even though e-books may outlast paper books in the long run, there is something more “real” about a paper book. And when you go to conferences, like Left Coast Crime or Bouchercon, or talks at libraries or book groups, it’s nice to have a paper version with you.

And don’t you love going into a house with lots of books everywhere, seeing their covers and spines and what your friends tastes are (so you know who to dump—only kidding). I’d miss that if everyone had only e-books.

Isn’t it just more satisfying to see a three dimensional book, with a spine and back cover, as well as a front cover. Also, particularly when reading the classics, like Chandler, Highsmith, Hammett, Ross MacDonald, they sort of “need” to be read in the traditional form, sitting in a wing chair with a glass of Scotch by your side. 
Raymond Chandler Paper Covers
Raymond Chandler Paper Spines

Raymond Chandler e-book Spine

White Heat Ebook Cover

White Heat Paperback Cover

White Heat Paperback Spine

White Heat e-book Spine


And I’d like to congratulate two of our fellow Criminal Minds on their awards at Bouchercon a few days ago, so:

Congratulations to Catriona for her Anthony win! 

And to Art, for his Macavity win! 
Well done!


Meredith Cole said...

I love browsing through other people's books! It's amazing what their collection can tell you about them. And have you ever been in a house that has absolutely zero books in it? It's... um, creepy.

Congrats Art and Catriona? And congrats to Susan, Clare and Catriona (Madame President) on their new Sisters in Crime board positions!

Unknown said...

I positively love paper books, especially those by favorite authors (like you). Which is why I have about 6K of them. But, as I get older and my eyes are wearing out, have to admit I do most of my reading on the Kindle. Love that I can change the font to a size where the words don't become a blur on the page.

Art Taylor said...

I love your breakdown of all this, Paul—the pros and cons, the tactile sensation on the one hand and the decluttering on the other. I think my favorite parts though were the images of the ebook spines. :-)

Thanks for the shout-out here about Catriona's and my awards. What a fun time in Long Beach! And great to meet you in person after so long admiring your work.

Susan C Shea said...

Agree with all of what you said, even as I look around despairingly at the load of new books I brought home from Bouchercon. When I moved into this house, I promised myself that for every book I brought home, I'd give away one. Hasn't happened. And the Kindle has a dozen good books waiting for me too. We aren't crazy hoarders...are we?

Paul D. Marks said...

Meredith, I have been in people’s houses who have no books and it’s frightening. Sometimes people I know, though mostly they have lots of books. But when Amy and I were looking for houses the first time it blew my mind how many had no books, especially houses with kids. And this was before the advent of e-readers so it’s not like *all* their tons of books were in e-form. Scary.

Six thousand books, Kat? Wow! And I didn’t think about the font size, but that’s a good point. And thank you for the compliment!

Thanks, Art. The e-book spines do leave something to be desired, don’t they? And glad we got to meet and be on the same panel too.

We keep *trying* to give books away to the local library and all, Susan, but it’s hard to part with them. Even if I don’t plan to read them again there’s something comforting about having them around, maybe like a little kid with their stuffed animals, if that doesn’t sound too weird. And we, too, of course, came home with a ton of books from B’con. Not sure where we’re going to put them though. We are hoarders, in a way, aren’t we ;)

RJ Harlick said...

Paul, I'm with you on the comfort a good book feels in the hands. I've I had a million square feet of wall space, I'd buy only printed books, but sadly I've long since run out of shelf space, so find myself buying mostly ebooks these days. I do love the ease of being able to read at night without having to put a light on, something I do when I wake up and can't readily get back to sleep.

I'd also like to add my congratulations to Art and Catriona. Way to go guys!

Paul D. Marks said...

Robin, I feel your pain – seriously. We’re in the same situation. Bursting at the seams. And there are definitely things I like about e-readers, which is why I do both. But nothing like the feel of a “real” book in your hands.

Unknown said...

I will always love physical books, but as I'm becoming ... ahem ... not as young as I once was, I'm having a lot of issues with eye strain, even when wearing reading glasses. So the Kindle has become my best friend.

Paul D. Marks said...

I can understand that, Irene. And luckily we have devices like the Kindle. I think there's a place for both.