Five Reasons I Love My E-Readers

As an inveterate book sniffer and hoarder of musty paperbacks, I was always skeptical about e-readers—that is, until I got my first one three years ago. A birthday present from my husband, my Nook soon became an essential tool in my working life. A year and a bit later, I was sent a Kindle on “permanent loan” through one of my reviewing gigs, and it has quickly become one of my most prized possessions. I know some of my blog readers don’t read e-books at all, and I can sympathize with certain of your feelings. But here are five reasons I love my e-readers, followed by why they will never replace print books for me.

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Some recent and upcoming titles I’m keen to try.

  1. A portable library. I often have between 250 and 300 books on my Kindle. Hundreds of books right at my fingertips, all in a slim 4 x 6 ″ rectangle! If I’m ever stuck somewhere due to delayed or broken-down transport, I’ll never be without ample choices of reading material. E-readers are perfect for cutting down on luggage when traveling (I had to cull 14 books from my suitcase on my last trip to America to stay under the weight limit) and are my usual choice for reading in the car. The Nook’s built-in light is especially useful on nighttime drives. As much as I love my print library, moving house frequently—as we have done over the past decade—always reminds you just how much weight and space books represent.
  2. Digital review copies. Being willing and able to read PDF and ePUB books is the only thing that has allowed me to work for lots of American companies, which is where the reviewing money seems to be. I can also request advance access to books through NetGalley and Edelweiss, particularly titles not yet published in the UK; and any Kindle downloads do not expire. When traveling I have occasionally found it useful to put other kinds of documents on my Kindle as PDFs, too, like maps and confirmation e-mails. Since I’ve never had a smartphone, this is a kind of compromise between all print and all online.
  3. Searching and fact-checking. My e-readers’ search function has been invaluable when writing reviews. Often I’ll need to check facts like a character’s last name, the exact city in California, when someone makes their first appearance, or how often a particular word or phrase appears. For instance, I felt that a certain quotation was overused in a memoir, so did a search for it and, indeed, found 12 occurrences!
  4. Moving between books. I generally have 3 or 4 Kindle books of different genres on the go at any one time, and it couldn’t be easier to move between them with a few finger taps. I’ll often switch books after every couple of chapters, or when I reach a milestone percentage.
  5. Perfect for certain situations. An e-reader is less obtrusive for reading in public, especially now that etiquette doesn’t seem to preclude phone and tablet use in company. It’s also easier to get one out when you’re going just a few stops on a crowded subway system. I turn to my Kindle for reading over solitary meals/snacks or any other activity that requires my hands, like using a hairdryer. When I think about the lengths I once went to in my former life as a library assistant to read print books—holding pages open with a precariously balanced apple or the edge of a plate during meal breaks; hiding books under the service desk for surreptitious reading at a quiet moment—I think how silly I was not to get an e-reader sooner!

Some of my current reading and review books.
Some of my current reading and review books.

Yet there are definitely things I don’t like about using an e-reader:

  • E-books don’t feel like “real” books; I treat them as temporary and disposable and don’t do any nostalgic rebrowsing.
  • Battery life can be an issue, though not as often as you might think. (During a period of average use my Kindle probably lasts two weeks, and you can charge it either via a USB cable or at a wall plug.)
  • My Nook has a pretty small capacity.
  • There are no page numbers on Kindle, just percentages and numerical locations.
  • (A pathetic admission) I still haven’t figured out how to highlight passages on my e-readers!
  • Because I’m fine with e-copies I don’t get free print books out of most of my review gigs.
  • I can’t easily browse the covers/blurbs/first few pages of books to remind myself what they are and decide what I’m in the mood for—as a result, there are dozens of books on my Kindle whose titles I barely recognize.
  • I sometimes wonder whether my concentration on and retention of words read on a screen are inevitably lower.

I still love books as physical objects: beautiful covers, delicious smells, the heft of them in your hand and the chance to flick through pages. I like having big stacks of them around as visible signs of progress made and challenges still to come. Arranging and rearranging my library on bookshelves is a periodic treat. So although my e-readers are extremely useful tools, using them is not an unadulterated joy; they will only ever supplement paper books for me, not replace them. I think it’s telling that when given a choice between print and electronic formats—like if I come across an available public library copy of a book I know I have on my Kindle—I’ll choose the print book every time.


How do you feel about e-readers?

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24 thoughts on “Five Reasons I Love My E-Readers

  1. I’ve tried – but I hate them. They make the experience impersonal, the whole bookmarking/highlighting process is a pain making anything you want to find again nigh impossible. Plus the appearance of words on the screen is very tiring on the eyes. Want me to go on? Glad you get on with yours though :s

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    1. Well, agreed re: the highlighting. I can only manage to do so accidentally, like by dropping crumbs on the Kindle! I keep notes of location numbers instead.

      Using an e-reader has never seemed to bother my eyes (I wear contacts), and there are ways of adjusting the font size and type if you thought that would help.

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  2. I still don’t own an e-reader, and, at this point, I probably never will. And, because I’ve never used one, I can’t really say anything against them. I just *imagine* that I won’t love them like I love physical books, and because reviewing books isn’t my job, there just has never been a need for me to get one. I also think I’m one of those people who resist technology until they can’t anymore. I still don’t have a cell phone, even though two of my kids now have one and keep telling me to get one. I do think I would like to be able to search things up without flipping through the pages, though – that would be cool!

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    1. Not owning a cell phone is quite the achievement in this day and age. Bravo to you! I only have the very simplest of phones. You can use it to dial a number, receive a call, send a text or receive a text! No photography, Internet or anything else. Simply refusing to have a smartphone seems pretty counter-cultural nowadays. I think there’s something faintly self-indulgent about having access to all the world’s information in your pocket at all times. Like, you really can’t wait until you get home to look that up?

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      1. I just can’t be bothered with stuff like that unless I have a good reason, and I guess I haven’t had a good enough one yet. My mother wishes I had one, though, because when she sends out group texts to the rest of our family about stuff, she has to send me a separate e-mail or facebook message. When I get a phone, that will be my main motivation – staying in closer contact with family and kids. 🙂

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  3. I like having one mainly for the two reasons you mention above – being able to carry lots of books around in one small unit and being able to get hold of review copies from NetGalley. But I, too, don’t see them as real books. My two latest NetGalley “wins” are Grayson Perry’s new book and Lorna Landvik’s new novel. Really, I will want these in paper form. But then I’ll have read them already. Argh!

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    1. When you photograph your TBR shelf, do you use a placeholder for e-books?

      Any e-books that I have rated 4.5 or 5 stars I generally wish I owned in print! If I ever find them cheap secondhand, I think I’m likely to buy them.

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      1. Hehe – I used to photograph the screen of my (ancient, keyboard) Kindle with the totals on it but haven’t done that for a while. I’ve just had some serious NetGalley hits … oh dear!

        I have an ancient keyboard Kindle way after everyone else. I have never, ever used the keyboard, but husband bought it for me quite early on, as he’s a techie person. Before I can ever have a new one again, I have to wear out this one (still going strong) then work my way through one or two of his old ones!!

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  4. I wanted an e reader even before they became available – too many trips overseas where I hurt my shoulder carrying heavy books. So the portability factor still rules for me too. I’ve never thought of searching on my Kindle though – will have to explore that more fully. Highlighting I find pretty easy – you just click and then use the arrow keys and then click again. As for retention, you’re instinct is correct. Research shows we retain info far less readily on screens of any kind than in print – its because we read fewer words in a line. We think we read every word in a line but we don’t – we read one word and then see words either side of that. In printed pages we tend to see more of those words than on screen. Hence why I can never do proofreading on screen

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    1. Hmm, I wonder if it is different on different makes of Kindle: the only thing that happens when I tap the screen to click is that it changes pages. Do you have to bring up the menu at the top of the screen before you can highlight?

      That’s very interesting. My proofreading work is all on screen (Microsoft Word, track changes); I’d like to hope I’ve trained myself to be thorough in that medium!

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  5. I was very against e-books for ages. I’ve now read six (one on a Kobo, five on my iPhone’s Kindle app) and they’re not as frustrating as I imagined. The five I read on my phone were particularly useful because, walking back and forth from my flat to my new job, my baggage is definitely minimised! And you’re right about it being easier to whip out a device and get through a few more pages than it is to haul out even a small paperback. Like you, though, they’ll never replace paper books for me, and I still don’t own an e-reader, so I doubt I’ll read all that many of them in future.

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      1. I was surprised, too – the screen might be too small for some things, but in this case (all of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad books) I was turning pages so fast it didn’t matter!

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  6. I’ve never felt the need to get one until recently, as I’ve been learning a language and my daughter also wants to do languages and university, and the ease of being able to download a dictionary into it and check unknown words immediately would really speed up the process! 🙂

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  7. I could have written this post, nearly verbatim. (Except my Kindle was “transferred” to a Kindle app on my iPad two years ago.) I never intended to get an ereader in the first place, but won it and it has all the advantages you say. I especially love it when traveling.

    But as you say, it will never replace paper books, which I enjoy reading much more.

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  8. I fully intended to get an e-reader before our month long trip away. But I didn’t, and it was fine. We were below our ridiculously high weight limit on the flight and I enjoyed giving my charity shop finds away once read. As to the smart phone. That acquisition turned out to be invaluable for all kinds of reasons (blogging?) but I was only on line courtesy of hotel wi-fi. 24 hour access wasn’t for me!

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    1. Your Korean airline must have had a generous weight allowance. We always struggle on our British Airways flights to America: 1 bag of 23 kg each.

      I’m impressed that you managed to do all that blogging from a smartphone! Even just checking my e-mail on my husband’s tablet on our European travels was a challenge for me.

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  9. My husband got me a nook right after we got married, which was useful for commuting (that’s how I read Wuthering Heights), and then really, really useful when I was nursing our son. But I find reading on a screen unpleasant (and I do it too much anyway given my editing work), so I stopped using it and sent it along to my sister when she had a baby.

    Re: smartphones — I cannot tell you how much I wish certain family members had one! It’s hard, if not impossible, to share the same photos and texts with them.

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    1. Ah, I was thinking you were in the anti-e-reader category; good to know you gave one a solid try. I agree that traveling and hands-free use are the best excuses for having one. On a regular basis I use mine most for reading during solitary meals and on the crosstrainer.

      My whole immediate family has iPhones and I imagine they find it annoying that they have to write me e-mails rather than just send everything by phone!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. We see this much the same, although I think I probaby read a little less on my tablet than you do (an Android, not a dedicated e-reader…I use Mantano and Aldiko to read on it – the paid version of Mantano is great for keeping notes and highlighting and even allows you to sort/search your notes afterwards). In all, I don’t pay close attention to long periods of reading on a mobile screen; for me, it’s not the same as reading/editing on the PC, which is rooted and associated with work, and I pay closer attention to that. But I do love the ability to highlight and save notes from the e-pubs because that saves me a lot of typing. (And that’s precious reading time! Heheh)

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      1. There are free versions of both Mantano and Aldiko available (and the cost is very low/year, less than $10, even for all the bells and whistles, which I’ve only opted for with Mantano – now called Bookari, I believe – because I love the sorting feature). I sympathize with it being a real problem to solve, as I still remember the frustrations of solving it myself (more than a year ago now): you can get to the bottom of it and you will be so relieved!

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