An Argument With Myself Over E-Readers

A few months ago, my good friend Kelcey posted on Facebook a frantic plea for anybody to loan her a copy of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (1995).  The library did not have any available copies, the waiting list for one was long, and she needed to read it now!  I offered her my copy, a heavy leather-bound number with Elphaba on the front, sporting beautiful metallic green skin.  She took the copy gratefully, promising to take good care of it.  (Honestly, I had no qualms about letting her borrow it, because I trust her.  Also, I haven’t read it and I never plan to.  I tried once.  It was boring.)

wicked cover

My friend needed this book so desperately because she had just purchased tickets to the Broadway production of Wicked, which was playing in Salt Lake City, and she wanted to read it, and possibly read it to her daughters, before they went to see the show.  I, too, had tickets to the show and have seen it before.  It’s fantastic.  I could understand her excitement and urge to read the book before they attended.  I’m glad to have been of service.

My daughter Olivia and I at a performance of Wicked this summer.

At a performance of Wicked with my daughter Olivia

Now, imagine for a moment that I had gotten rid of all of my books, and instead of having a ridiculous amount of shelves in my home collecting dust and showcasing my greatest love, I had downloaded copies of everything to an e-reader.  This, my dear friends, is my argument against e-readers.  They are nontransferable.  They prevent book exchanges.  They make reading sterile.

I would not have let my friend, although a good friend, take my iPad for a few weeks so she could read one of my books.  Actual books are the only way this sort of swapping and sharing can occur.  I saved THE DAY for her because I had a hard copy of the book.  Beat that!

Okay.  Okay.  You’re not buying it.  Neither am I.  I’m glad to have hard copies.  I’m glad I was able to come to the “rescue,” but I like e-readers, too.  Here’s why.

They make annotating easy and fun.  I like to mark up my books by underlining, highlighting, and writing notes in the margins and on the blank pages at the end.  I also like to do this on my iPad because it’s fun to swipe my finger over the words and see everything turn green, pink, yellow, blue, or red (depending on my mood).  The color-coding is fantastic.

I found this to be the best feature of my e-reader.  But wait!  In order to look back over my notes for blogging or sharing with my hubby, I had to swipe through every single page of that darned book.  No way.  E-readers are no longer cool.

Then I discovered a great function.  There’s a table of contents on each e-book.  On that page, one can choose “notes” and voila, all of the markings, highlightings, and notes made are at the tips of one’s fingers.  I was hooked again.  (And now you know how slow I am to discover the neat features of technology.)

So, I’m converted and convinced.  But, I still love the feel of holding a real book.  Nothing beats the creamy texture of the pages, the beautiful smell of new (or old) paper, and the smoothness of the front cover.  The art of the covers makes each book beautiful without having actually perused its pages.  The heft of it in my hand or resting on my lap or stomach is a familiar and comfortable feeling.

So, no.  I’m not convinced.  I prefer actual books.

Which do you prefer?