I love books in all sizes (though I’m partial to trade paperbacks) and formats. My friends and I affectionately call physical books “deadtree editions”. I’m lucky to be able to talk about books on a daily basis. However, there is almost always a point of contention between me and many a bookworm: The e-reader.
Full disclosure: I have an e-reader. Every time I hear someone tell me that nothing beats the smell of a real book, or that e-books aren’t real books, I can’t help but wonder if, following that logic, that person has ever considered the same for online news outlets (nothing beats the smell and stains of a real newspaper!) or online news articles (they’re not real articles!), or even emails. It’s not quite an age-old argument just yet, but you’d think that in this digital age, people would be more accepting of e-books.
Different situations call for different formats. If I’m going to the beach or the pool, I can leave my book on the chair and not worry about it getting stolen or wet. In the event that my favorite author visits my favorite bookstore, I can’t very well have him sign my e-reader. There’s something to be said about a having a signed copy of a book, not to mention the bragging rights that come with it. And of course, the smell of books. The first thing I do when I buy a new book is open it in the middle and take a whiff. Come on, we all do it.
There are also books that don’t translate well on an e-reader. I tried reading comics and graphic novels on an e-reader and it just didn’t feel right. I recently bought an illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and I couldn’t imagine it in any other format than print. The illustrations are gorgeous and incredibly detailed. Although more expensive than the digital version, the physical book was worth it. My original paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is old and battered and looks like Tom Riddle’s diary (long story), so getting the illustrated edition was a fantastic upgrade. This is the type of book that would last generations, and is definitely something I would pass on to my future children.
Then there are books whose physical medium is also the message. A great example is J.J. Abrams’ and Doug Dorst’s “S”. It’s a book within a book, and the story is told through every aspect of the book: the book itself, the margins, and the many inserts between the pages. Part of what makes that kind of book an interesting read is the format in which it is told.
Having said all that, I can’t ignore the convenience of the e-reader.
Like nearly everyone living in Manila, I spend a lot of time stuck in traffic during my commute to and from work. I can only consume so much information on social media, so I log off and bring out my e-reader instead. I’ve had my reader for close to three years now, and it’s one of the best gifts I’ve received.
The thought of being able to have hundreds of books in a device only slightly bigger than my hand still boggles my mind. It’s technology right out of Star Trek. I literally have an entire library in the palm of my hand.
As someone who travels a lot, my e-reader is my best friend during long plane rides, layovers, or even just standing in line waiting for something. It’s light, and it easily fits in the pocket of my bag. I don’t have to worry about creasing the spine, accidentally folding the page or damaging the cover. It’s probably the multitasking millennial in me speaking, but if I get bored with a book I’m reading, I love that I can just leave it and start a new one, right in my device. There’s also the mystery of what you’re reading. No one can judge you by what you’re reading.
I also love the backlight of my e-reader. Unlike reading from a smartphone, there’s no glare when reading in bright sunlight or in a darkened room when I’m reading before bed. On that note, because my e-reader is so light, it doesn’t hurt as much when it falls on my face when I doze off. I can’t say the same when that happens while reading a trade paperback, or worse, a hardcover. Believe me, that’s happened way too many times than I care to admit.
Although each format has its own advantages and disadvantages, they serve a singular purpose: to tell stories. They help us get lost in fantasy worlds, get drawn into a whodunit, get emotionally invested in a fictional character’s life. The book, whichever format, is there to entertain us. Whether words on paper, or words on a screen, they are all stories in the end.
Any true bookworm should know that.