It seems like readers - at least the ones I've talked to - fall into two camps: The "I love e-books so much I want to marry them!" camp and the "I enjoy the sensation of paper in my hands and will never even think about reading an e-book" camp. Either viewpoint is valid! Reading for pleasure should be just that: pleasurable. So there's no sense in jumping on the e-book bandwagon and hating life while you're staring at a screen.
There's something to be said, though, for giving the format a try if you're sitting on the fence. I tend to be a 50/50 reader, where half of my books are paper and half of my books are electronic. I love my paper books! They feel good, they smell good. They're comforting. You can knock out a mugger with a hardback-filled handbag. But e-books have a few features that are very attractive to a very nearsighted, geeky, writer/library lurker/technophile/sometimes insomniac.
- I can read in the dark. Okay, before you snort, have you ever been the passenger in a car on a long road trip at night with a broken radio? How about a light-sensitive spouse snoozing next to you when you can't fall asleep? I keep my e-books on my Palm handheld and it has a backlit screen so I can read in places that I was previously unable to when I stuck to print books.
- I can make the words bigger. I'm not even thirty yet, and I'm already getting to the point where I'm checking books out from the large print section of the library. Most e-book readers let you adjust the size of the font.
- Some of my favorite authors publish e-book originals. Bonnie Dee, Elizabeth Donald, Mark Orr, Lilith Saintcrow, Keri Arthur, and our own Savanna Kouger all have titles you can't buy in paper format.
- Two words: instant gratification. I can buy books (or check them out since my library has a downloading service) at 2:00 in the morning in my pajamas and start reading immediately without having to use any gasoline or extra time. Which is great for me because I have to drive at least ten miles to get to a non Wal-mart bookstore. Oh. And you don't have to pay for shipping!
- They're accessible to almost everyone with a computer. I usually stick to books available in PDF format. I don't need anything more than the free Adobe software to read them. Granted, there are lots of different e-book formats and readers out there, but I haven't really come across an e-book original that I have really wanted to read that wasn't available as a PDF somewhere.
Some folks fear that e-books might one day make paper books obsolete. It's possible. Technology changes fast! But publishing moves slow. My opinion? I don't think we're in any immediate danger. If and when paper is replaced by bytes, it will only be when readers are ready. If we keep buying paper books, our publishers will keep supplying them.
I'd love to know what you guys think! Do you e-read? If not, do you want to?