For the last few days I have been reading a paper book. This happens from time to time as I feel I should have a go at the pile of unread paper books I have accumulated from one source or another.
Generally I only read ebooks these days, for a number of reasons, some of which are the ease of getting hold of good and free ebooks these days, comfort, the ability to make the letters on the page the best size for the lighting situation I find myself in (I am ancient, and my eyes are not what they used to be), and last but absolutely not the least, the sheer ease and comfort of holding an ereader in bed as I read myself to sleep each night.
But a few weeks ago I found a huge and thick collection of short writings by Kurt Vonnegut, an author I admire and love to read, in the local recycling dump, which has been sitting on a shelf looking at me accusingly ever since. So a couple of days ago I gave in and took it to bed with me to read.
As always with this author, the stories are superb, but the actual reading experience is awful. As I said, this volume is a very thick and heavy one, and the way it has been bound makes it difficult to get the pages to lie flat, so when reading the left hand page I have to really hold the book tightly to keep the whole page visible (it tends to half close, if you see what I mean) and after about 20 minutes of holding this infernal and misbegotten physical book in a position that enables me to read the damn thing my hands are tired out and I become irritated.
This is very unfair to Kurt, whose stories are gripping, funny and human, but a lot of the joy of his writing is lost to me through the sheer discomfort of the act of holding the book.
So as I lie there, struggling to read this superb collection of short stories in bed, I am forcibly reminded of the sheer pleasure of reading with an ereader and regret having found this huge and unwieldy form of book, rather than having these stories in the infinitely better form of an ebook.
Basically my feeling about books, paper or ebook is that the reading experience should be easy, comfortable and adjustable to meet the situation one is reading in, and on these measures, paper books fail lamentably, and ebooks win every time.
I admit freely that since the invention of movable type by an unknown Chinese person in the 11th century, paper books have served us extremely well, but happily, everything is capable of improvement, and with the advent of the electronic ereader and its accompanying ebooks, we have seen a huge improvement in the ease and comfort of reading. As I noted at the top of this post, being able to increase and decrease the font size, have the entire book on one page (so once in a comfortable reading position, one doesn’t have to move again), the ability to have the thickest and heaviest book in the world taking up no more space in one’s hands than a single page poem and so on and so on… The advantages of ebooks over paper ones are legion, and will certainly mean that we will probably only read and store our books in the future in this electronic form, or some variant of it at least.
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Am I right or am I wrong in my contention that ebooks are a far better way of handling books than their paper ancestors? Do let me know your views on this topic, as it is one that intrigues me no end.