To e-read, or not to e-read

A small diversion from my usual topics today, but I’m looking for some wisdom.

I love to read.  Always have, probably always will.  One of my favourite hobbies is people watching, and you can do that so well in books.  They are also a good way to explore other views, other cultures, other situations.  In short reading is a joy.

So… with an impending birthday, and a collection of vouchers for a certain internet book store, I got round to wondering again about an electronic reading device.


I can see many advantages:

  • It’s light
  • I can get several books on it – no taking up space with books when I go on holiday – last time I took four!
  • I can read it when other people are asleep without disturbing them

I can also see disadvantages:

  • what about all the books I already own?
  • I’m not sure about it for the beach
  • It costs a more than a paperback to take out and about and risk losing it or it being taken
  • I’m worried for when I fall asleep reading and it lands on my head!!

But then I got to thinking about some other issues, perhaps ones that effect the wider community:

  • I get most of my books from the library.  I like it that way.  It enables me to read books I might not otherwise pick up, for fear of spending money and not liking it.  It also allows me to read as many books as I want, not as many as I can afford.  Having to buy rather than borrow books, would cost me a lot more.  But there are much wider issues than that.  If we all start reading e-books on readers, where will that leave our libraries?  Libraries are valuable community spaces, and every person that stops using them puts them further at risk of closure or even shorter opening hours – and where will that leave those people who have to depend on them – not just the buildings, but the mobile libraries.
  • What about the people who I can share books with now?  I can’t pass on an e-book that I’ve downloaded.
  • And the same applies to charity shops.  I guess a fair bit of their trade comes from selling second-hand books.  If we all moved to e-books, that would be one more thing they have less of to sell and fewer opportunities to raise much-needed funds. (Though I’m not sure of the law re copyright and re-selling in both these cases.  I appreciate that authors have a right to earn their money for the work they have produced, maybe that’s another question…)

So I find my self in not just a financial, but a moral dilemma.  Can anyone offer me any help in unpicking it?

To e-read or not to e-read – that is the question…

~ by pamjw on September 12, 2011.

2 Responses to “To e-read, or not to e-read”

  1. I bought a Kindle with Christmas money and Amazon vouchers. The initial motivation was a lack of space in my manse study.

    The advantages: size (I took five books on holiday, simply on the Kindle), money (most Theology isn’t available through the council library, so I have to buy), search functions, sharing quotes to social media and generating a discussion.

    As you say, though, it isn’t all advantages. While the second-hand argument you talk about is serious and applies to many, it doesn’t really apply to me, since I don’t expect most charity shops would want the titles I read. However, I am learning to be careful about the way I ‘tag’ books on the Kindle. I classify my books for filing, and need to do something similar for e-books. Positively, I can give an e-book multiple tags whereas I can only file a physical book in one place. However, I also need to cross-reference between physical books and e-books. For example, the first e-book I bought was Richard Bauckham’s ‘The Theology of the Book of Revelation’. Apart from classifying that under biblical studies on the Kindle, I also needed to cross-reference with my Bible commentaries on Revelation.

    With regard to the question of library lending, I saw this article this morning:

    Just a few gut thoughts …

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