In the past week, I have heard two authors, Maurice Sendak and Jonathan Franzen, come out against eBooks, with Franzen suggesting “serious readers” prefer paper. Both authors commented that they couldn’t imagine a future where eBooks were popular, but they supposed it didn’t matter because they would be dead. I don’t want to respond too much to their comments specifically. Sendak didn’t give much explanation for his reasoning and Franzen seems to have confused eBooks with eBooks sold by a particular vendor that maintains access to your copy after you buy it (or license it or whatever is technically legally happening with that transaction), which is not a problem with the medium itself but rather with that particular vendor’s implementation of it. Taking a stand against propietary formats that lack permanence is great, but different from being against eBooks as a whole.
I have noticed that anti-eBook sentiment is common, however. A friend of mine got a hard copy book for Christmas and launched into an unprovoked rant against eBooks and how physical books were so much better. The same seemed to be true in the comments following Sendak’s interview. “Right on,” people said. “I love paper books and have not ever read an eBook, nor will I.”
Wait, what? If you have never read an eBook, how do you know it’s a terrible experience? I get that eReaders are expensive, so it’s not like it’s something you just pick up at the corner store on the off-chance that it may be for you (If you have tried an eReader and it wasn’t for you, fair enough). I actually consider the expense and barrier to buying them the biggest argument against eBooks if we’re setting things up as a paper vs electrons choice. Affordable $4 paperbacks or near-infinite selection at the local library for anyone with proper identification are one of the greatest things about paper books. Anyone can access them; not so for eReaders.
I get that people love paper books. I have been there. I still am there in many situations. But to try to extrapolate from that to what it is like to read on an eReader without actually having read on an eReader and pass judgement on people who choose to read that way seems…unfair? Over-controlling? Really lacking in perspective? So I thought I would share my experience becoming a reader of eBooks as a reminder to people to stay open-minded. There is enough snobbery around books and their content without criticising readers who choose a different format as well. Read more…