Thursday, August 4, 2011

E-books: Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

I don't have an e-reader, and I should probably qualify that with the word "yet." I do have several e-books on my PC. I read one of them promptly and quickly because I had agreed to write a review. The others? Haven't read Word One, even though I'm a voracious reader and am interested in these books' topics. Why haven't I even started reading them? Because they're on my computer rather than toppling off my nightstand. Were the latter the case, I'd have finished them months ago. On my computer, they're not calling, "Read me." On my computer, I've got too many other priorities that come first. But the "read me" thing is really the bottom line: Because the books are on my computer, I keep forgetting I have them.

It seems an e-reader would solve this. An e-reader is dedicated for reading, and the device is as much a visual prompt as a physical book is. But here's my question: Can't individual books get lost in this vast e-library? When you pick up an e-reader, you're picking up hundreds or someday thousands of books all at once, if you've owned it awhile and are an avid reader. Surely you can just plain forget some of them, even though they're as present and available as all the others. Yes, physical libraries also contain forgotten or unread books. But a physical book has a chance to call, "Read me!" in a way that an e-book doesn't. For me, so far at least, e-books are "out of sight, out of mind."

As an aside, a couple of weeks ago I read a column by a college-age young man in our local paper. To my surprise, he listed e-books as one of "life's little annoyances." He said he already spends plenty of time with his computer, TV, and smartphone, and doesn't want another screen, thank you very much. Most people's reply to this objection is that an e-reader isn't the same because you can choose a model that doesn't have a backlit screen. But I'm not so sure this is answering people's concerns. Or that we should assume the young won't want physical books. None of my young adult kids or their spouses, five out of six of them readers, are interested in e-books. Not one.

What has your experience been? Do you think e-books are easier to forget or ignore than print books?

13 comments:

Andrea Mack said...

An interesting perspective, Marcia. There is something about having that stack of books on my bedside table, knowing they are physically there, waiting for me.

This also reminds me of how, now that all my photos are digital and stored on the computer, I get prints much less often (to the dismay of grandparents, especially the ones that don't even have a computer, let alone an internet connection).

But I think it's a generational thing. My younger daughter might end up ONLY reading on e-books (though I can't imagine her without her well-worn print copy of Harry Potter).

Christine Sarmel said...

Interestingly my teens love their phones and computers, but still prefer a paper book for pleasure reading. In their eyes reading from the screen signals homework or textbook, not relaxation.

Dawn Malone said...

My teens like their paper books better than e-versions. I feel the same way about looking at so many screens throughout the day. Paper books are easier on my eyes.

inluvwithwords said...

My daughters, both in their twenties, have never had a bit of interest in an ereader. They read like crazy and have never mentioned even considering getting one.
I'm with you - I have several ebooks on my computer that I've never even opened.

Anne Spollen said...

I like the "privacy" of sitting with a book. It's sort of hard to explain - I want to be able to take the book anywhere and not be connected so the experience is between just me and the book and nothing between us. Does that make sense?

Laura Pauling said...

That's why some want an e-reader b/c of the stacks of books. I like both. Some books have smaller print all jammed together that make it harder to read. I still love print but I think there's room for both.

Marcia said...

Andrea -- Oh, I get prints much less often, too! I think it's only partly a generational thing. I'm amazed at the number of 20- 25-year-olds who don't care about e-books. I figure I can't be the only one running into this???

Christine -- I believe creating that "this is downtime" feeling is HUGE. Whatever does that for an individual -- book or screen -- will be that person's choice for pleasure reading, is my prediction. Though I keep encountering that "I don't need one more screen!" remark.

Dawn -- I spend so much time on my computer that I may take reading on the screen in stride, but precisely because I'm always on here, paper book means "welcome change of pace." Even if it's for research!

inluv -- My experience matches yours 100%.

Anne -- To me it makes perfect sense. There's a relationship -- and intimacy is a good word -- with a print book that doesn't exist with e-books, at least not yet. Whether that will change -- just like I learned to write on the computer and no longer think I need to write longhand for "intimacy" -- remains to be seen.

Laura -- Yes, an e-reader sure eliminates the problem of storage and weight of books. I foresee people making personal choices about what they prefer to read in each format, but staying open to both. I do think the POD part of e/POD publishing may become more important than was first thought.

cleemckenzie said...

I'm a newbie at the Kindle, but so far I've enjoyed one good book and disliked a second. I did find that when I stored my Kindle on the shelf it kind of disappeared and I forgot it was there. Ooops! Better get it out and download something.

Rena said...

I don't have one, but my daughters do and really like them. However, they're both little book worms and still love to hold, read, and even SMELL real books. So for them, there's a market for both. I'm not sure if that would be the norm for most people, though. As for me, I have NO interest in them. I spend way too much time on a computer as it is.

Marcia said...

Lee -- Yes, I can already see that Kindles probably have to be kept visible. I downloaded a few free samples onto my phone. I was less than blown away by one that has a good rep, but of course that happens with print, too.

Rena -- That "too much time on a computer" feeling seems to be one that a lot of people share. Doesn't seem to be a lot of age correlation. I too think there's room for both, and that e-books won't drive out print books any more than TV drove out movies.

Christina Farley said...

This is a great question. I just got a kindle recently and I wanted to do a search for books but I couldn't. So I have to go online for that.

Marcia said...

Christina -- This surprises me. You couldn't search for books from your Kindle? I can with the Kindle app on my phone, and I know you can with a Nook.

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