Friday, June 1, 2012

Analog Books vs E-Reader: a Book Lover's Experience

EcoYogini weighs the pros and cons of e-readers....

I'm standing in the last metro car, elbows tucked in, sweaty stinky people pushing up against me on my way to McGill one morning. I'm reading a French book, the pages up close to my face as if to block out the sight of so many strangers invading each other's space. I have to be careful that I don't fall out when the doors open at each stop- "Station Laurier".

The man directly in front of my tries to strike up a conversation about my book (a classic Québec lit novel that I actually wasn't enjoying at all): "Ah! Ce livre est magnifique, n'est-ce pas? Les personnages blah blah...." At this point in my life I'm really quite bad at avoiding eye contact, the rural Atlantic Canadian in me just has to respond in order to be polite. It was ridiculous, since that was WHY I had chosen to read a book, so I wouldn't be harassed by weird men looking for the lady who makes eye contact.

This interaction resulted in the man giving me his dating 'card' with "Je m'appelle____, s'il vous plaît appellez-moi à ______" which was extremely awkward because I took the same metro car and bus every day... and we did end up running into each other again. Thankfully he was just weird and not some crazy serial stalker killer guy.

This wouldn't have happened if I had been reading on a Kindle.
Bookshelf un de trois: as you can see we have eclectic tastes in books....

Last fall Andrew decided that he wanted a Kindle. I was completely against it. There are so many aspects that are a part of the essential reading experience for me: The feel of the book, the cover, the smell, the act of turning the pages and of marking your place. A Kindle would be a sad electronic version of a beautiful analog experience.

(Another bookshelf with some of my 'eco' books- French novels from Stolen Harvest-candle!)

Except: it saves on a crap load of paper and trees. 

After five months (the Kindle was a Yule gift), I will admit that I have read a grand total of 6 books on the Kindle- to Andrew's smug joy. For a analog book lovin' gal, I have a few thoughts on the Kindle. Since I feel it's important to be honest and authentic (le mot du jour in blog land) here goes:

The Kindle in 'sleep' mode
Kindle- The Good Stuff:

  • It is ridiculously easy to buy books. Although this would kind of fit in the 'bad' category as the entire experience of book shopping is one of my favourite things to do (read here), sometimes book stores don't have the book you're looking for... or you finish a book and you want to read the next one RIGHT NOW. It's honestly scary how fast you can buy a book, under a minute and voilà! It's on your Kindle, ready to read.
  • It's easy on the trees. Of course there would be an initial environmental cost of creating the Kindle and the electronic parts that go along with that, but it uses a minimal amount of energy as it's 'electronic ink' and not digitally powered (magnets move the 'ink' into words on the screen- which isn't backlit for easier reading). 
  • It saves on space which is a big concern for Andrew. He grew up with parents who read A LOT (and whose childhood home is now a bit overrun with books). I grew up in a home where I was the only reader, so I think our three bookcases are a perfect addition.
  • It's easier for travelling... (but I really don't mind bringing a few analog books with me- it's just that they can get heavy...).
  • If you're reading something embarrassing (like Fifty Shades of Grey- which honestly AVOID, it's SO SO terribly written, I'm annoyed we spent the 9,99$ Kindle price for it), no one has to know.
  • It can update to Goodreads automatically which is pretty geeky and awesome. (If you don't know what Goodreads is- go there, it rocks).
  • It's a lot easier to buy good French novels which are difficult to find in book store in the Atlantic provinces.

Kindle- The Annoying Stuff:

  • I am not a fan of the way the Kindle feels in my hands. It's kinda small so it doesn't feel like a book. 
  • It doesn't smell, look or feel like a book. This is important.
  • It drives me bonkers how you have to change the pages and you're never quite clear where you are in the book. AND what if you accidentally push the forward or backward button too many times? Because it's electronic, it's much more intangible, which makes it tricky to find your spot- backwards or forwards it all looks the same.
  • Not having real pages also means that you can't just go back and reread a certain part of the book- unless you were paying attention to the percentage part of the book when you read that part, you'd have to press through the button of the entire book. It makes it feel like when you're done reading the book, the experience was fleeting and almost unreal.
  • Buying a book on the Kindle means you only get an electronic file, which the company (Amazon usually) can retract and alter at any time they'd like. 
  • You can't write notes in the Kindle... (without ruining the screen).
  • You can't lend books with the Kindle (I love lending books to friends, sharing the reading experience).
  • Due to planned obsolescence, in a few years this Kindle will be out of date. If they decide to change the electronic book file format, you will likely have to buy a new version of the Kindle. More environmental damage, more money.

The verdict: If it were just me, unless I had an unlimited budget (or won the lottery) I wouldn't buy a Kindle. I prefer analog every time. My goal this summer is to get a library card and give it another go!


Anonymous said...

E-readerd also contain a lot of harmful chemicals and use nonrenewable, toxic metals in their creation. Used + library books take no new energy to bring into your life.

PS- curious why someone striking up a conversation is 'weird'...I live in a very friendly city where people aren't afraid of interacting w strangers, so it makes me kinda sad to see in other cities that people avoid talking to others, especially in such close proximity as the bus.

Daphne said...

Some points. You can take notes, but it isn't easy unless you have the keyboard version. And you can bookmark sections if you think you want to reread them sometime. Personally I like the feel of the keyboard kindle a lot, but I have trouble holding the touch screen version.

I find the Kindle is great for novels, but really really bad for reference books. I bought one for the Kindle one time and returned it since it is impossible to flip to the correct pages and such. A reference book is so much easier if you can put little tabs and such.

swiggett said...

I completely agree with your points, but the inability to lend or borrow books is probably the most detrimental to my book-loving experience. It doesn't happen all the time, but some of the best book-situations are when my sister, mom, or best friend read a book and mail it to me. I then read it and mail it to another one of them. Even though we are separated by miles and miles, we are all sharing one book and one story. Certainly, we could all check the same book out of the library or download to an e-reader, but it just isn't the same.

Martha said...

I love my Kindle! But I also still love "real" books and read them just as much.

When I got mine, I had an issue with the way it felt too. For my birthday last year, I bought myself a nice cover (with a light!)that opens like a book and that helped a lot.

Sarah said...

I bought my Kindle for the sole purpose of travel. When I was little and we would go on family road trips I would always bring a box of books - that doesn't really work when you are traveling internationally with just your backpack. I love that the Kindle battery lasts forever, and that you can get most of the classics for free, but that is pretty much it!

In every day life I never use my Kindle - real books all the way! I rely SO MUCH on our library - there is one just a block away from my house. But I don't buy new books - haven't in a long time (that is one of the reasons I struggle with the Kindle - ebook prices are CRAZY!). Our library puts on a huge used book sale and I've volunteered there forever - so I get first dibs!

Eco Yogini said...

@ecogrrl: yes- so true! Re: unfriendly... in Montreal people just don't make eye contact or talk to strangers (i was sad by this too)- so when you DO make eye contact you get accosted... this guy was CREEPY. While living there I was chased down the street, yelled at, inappropriately hit on and approached... all because I made eye contact. :S
Note- Halifax is NOT like that :)

@Daphne: yes.. i knew you could take notes- but we don't have the keyboard version and i really like taking notes with a pencil. (we don't have the touch screen version either, we have a non-keyboard version).

@swiggett: oh yes- that would make the kindle or an e-reader a difficult choice! what a wonderful tradition you and your family has!! fun books in the mail? yes!

@Martha: yep Andrew loves his kindle too and bought that special kindle cover case with the light. it has helped... but really it's no "real book" replacement...

@Sarah: I travel a lot for my job, and honestly I prefer bringing real books to the kindle. I usually pack a few in my suitcase and bring one as carryon on the airplane. The only time books were a problem was the time I had training in Ottawa and received three heavy text books and manual... which wouldn't have been available kindle version anyway.

As for vacation travelling- I prefer real books... there's just something so much more tangibly "vacation" about reading a "real" book while on vacation and the sight of your books piling up, read, as you go through them. evidence of your leisure time :)

(but then Andrew LOVES his kindle- so i think it's personal choice).

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

I don't want to write too much here, b/c I have enough to say to write my OWN post on this one, but, just let me say, I'm with you on this one, sister! I read somewhere that the library is the eco-friendliest option.

Anonymous said...

I'm with ya, gal! I keep fantasizing about getting a Kindle Fire (my sister LOVES hers and wants to use the "share" book option with me so I can read what she's reading) but...I cannot get past the idea of holding a big computer-like tablet in my hand instead of a book. I like to see how many pages I've read and to feel the book in my hands and to smell it. But it sure would be nice to be able to store so many books electronically and to have something small to take when traveling AND to be able to buy a new book in a moment, instead of having to wait for it to come into the library! :)

robbie @ going green mama said...

I'm with you - I'm attached to the book feel and smell too much to change!

Eco Yogini said...

@Betsy: ouu, i hope you chat more about the environmental impact comparison! :)

@Five Seed: yes... i feel a bit like I'm spoiled because I have the convenience of both now. but like i said, if it were just me i wouldn't have bought it.

@Robbie: nothing like it!

Anonymous said...

The silicon-ness and kind of origins of its manufacture, as ecogrrl said, makes it less eco.

However, I am old enough to have felt that way about personal computers. Yet, I can't go entirely paperless in managing my tiny living space. I will pay bills online, for instance, but insist on getting sent paper statements that I have to file away.

With e-readers you are a licensee of the book, and somehow the annotations by other readers sneak in to your book; this smacks of using the internet to read a book on, with the comment stream below. Wondering if it is word searchable in the way .pdf files are.

In New York City, libraries now lend out the book contents for the e-readers (not the e-readers themselves, of course--not even for rental) ...

Anonymous said...

I'm holding out on the e-Reader. My spouse works at a used bookstore, so I get the vast majority of my books used, and many of them go right back when I'm done reading. The Kindle is one of those things I feel like I should be much more excited about than I am. I do appreciate the tree-saving potential, and the ability to not lug around ten books on vacation. For people who typically buy new paper books, I think they're a great idea. I see stacks of former bestsellers in hardcover and lament the waste of resources. But...the tactility...

s.e. said...

Halifax has a fabulous library system:) It's one of the things I really do love about this city. So definitely get a card. The Vancouver public library has bed bugs in several branches but my librarian friends assure me that so far there are none in Halifax.
That said, I love reading on my ipod. I use it for many other things and bought it used so I don't feel that it contributed very much to my footprint. One aspect that hasn't been mentioned is that for people with health issues that make holding big or heavy books difficult, e readers can be wonderful. You can get stands for them too so you can be completely hands free.

Pony said...

Ah yes, I have to second what s.e. said: I have severe rheumatoid arthritis and my kindle has been soooo much easier on my body than paper books. When I am sitting I can lay in on my lap and it is open, hands-free. In bed at night, I can lay on my side and with the nifty fold over cover I can tent it up and still use it hands-free! I had pretty well given up on bedtime reading as it was too painful to hold a book while laying down. The kindly brought back my tradition of nodding off with a book :)

Having said this, the ease of use and availability of books (I live in a town with no bookstore and a pretty small library) are the some of the only points that make me love it. I am truly a paper book gal all the way. The smell, the feel, the look.


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