Thursday Thoughts - Discussion about books

Thursday Thoughts is a weekly feature on Ashley’s Blog Ok, Let’s Read. Each thursday, Ashley would open a discussion related to reading. This week, the topic is “do you prefer eReaders or physical books?”. Feel free to join and/or check other people’s opinion on Ashley’s post!

I remember when my beloved and I bought our first eReader. It was seven years ago in France, we had been dating for a while and the eReader was a new next step: our first significant purchase together. We chose the excellent iLiad by iRex Technologies and we paid it… around $900 CAD (gasp!). We were young, geeks, and in love, I guess that’s why. Anyway, we loved it, it was sincerely the best eReader ever. But the company went bankrupt, the technology improved, the ePub format emerged, and at some point, I bought a Kobo Touch eReader on a whim (for $100 CAD ahahah!).
Does it mean I don’t read physical books anymore? Absolutely not. My father is a proud owner of a 14000-and-increasing book collection and that’s just the coolest thing about him (don’t tell him, he thinks I like his cooking better). I grew up amongst bookshelves filled up to the ceiling with Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror and Crime books. I love libraries, bookstores, book fairs. I love my Dad too, but that’s another matter.
So, do I prefer eBooks or physical books?

First, let’s clarify something: by eBooks/eReader I mean actual electronic paper devises, like the Kobo Touch or the Kindle PaperWhite, not tablets. I don’t read on tablets or even on my smartphone, I find the back-light very tiring for the eyes. Besides, I work the whole day on a computer and when I’m off, I want a rest.
Now, the first thing I love about eReader is how practical they are: first, you can read a Stephen King and not feel like you’re holding up a cinder block! Second, you can take it everywhere in your bag and the corner won’t get creased. EReaders don’t get as easily damaged as long as you don’t smash them on the floor, which I don’t.
Besides, using an eReader helped me quite a bit to learn English. The embedded dictionaries are a blessing: you touch a word and the definition pops out. No need to keep a heavy dictionary on your knees and spend a few seconds flipping the pages to find a word. Awesome.
On the technical side, I love the way you can set up the fonts, line-height and margins on a eReader. You won’t discard a book because your eyes are getting sore trying to decipher the tiny text tightly packed on the page.
What’s more, the eReader allows me to access more books. Now living in Ontario, it’s kind of hard to spend an afternoon in Gibert Joseph and Gibert Jeune on the Boulevard Saint-Michel in Paris, France. Imported French books can be ridiculously expensive: in Montreal, I almost fainted when I found a new novel by Pierre Bordage sold for $42! E-Books are cheaper and they fly borders. Furthermore, it makes it easier to read indie authors. Scott Spotson’s novel The Four Kings that I reviewed recently were one of those indie novels that are only available on eBook formats. Last point: you can buy and read your eBook in an instant, from home. Life-saving on -40°C winter nights!
Finally, it saves trees. An awful lot of trees. I don’t feel comfortable with buying a physical books when I know I’m going to read it once and then… what? I find eBooks eco-friendly and I really, really appreciate this.

Does it feel like I’m entirely sold to eReaders? Wait a minute! I still love physical books! Who doesn’t? First, I like to think of a book as a world contained in a physical object. You open a book the same way you open a door: it’s a threshold to another universe. It has personality: it can look old, new, shiny, austere, anything. It is small but so utterly rich at the same time. There is something magical about it.
Besides, I am fond of books as objects. The texture of the paper (I do have my favourite shade of white), the cover (I don’t like shiny-plastic-like one, I love soft, matt one), the font and printing (I like san serif fonts and prefer light crisp printing!), the weight of the book in my hands, etc. A book is a beautiful object. And a book collection is simply the best decoration ever in a house! Is this off topic?
Anyways, physical books have a few advantages over eBooks: you can peek ahead, you can quickly check how many pages are left till the end of the chapter. That’s the biggest draw-back with eBooks.
Since you can quickly flip through the pages, it’s so much easier to work with a book. You can jump from a bookmark to another, or quickly search a reference, or even have the book open on two pages at the same time to compare something or get a reminder from a previous event in the book. This takes too much time on an eReader and it’s just not practical.
Finally, I prefer browsing books on physical bookshelves. I can spend hours in a bookstore or in the Ottawa library, checking one volume after another, but I find it very hard to shop for books online very long. It is simply not the same: it feels cold.

So, eBook or physical books? Both! They complement each other in my opinion. Physical books are obviously nicer to collect and are easier to work with; they have more charm since the book object can be part of the reading experience. As for eBooks, they are extremely convenient: you can customize the way the text is displayed, get your book in an instant from anywhere in the world and at any time, and the dictionary feature is just great.

What about you? Do you think physical books and eBooks are in competition?