I had never read an eBook until yesterday. I never had any reason to. Every book that I've ever wanted to read is available in print format. For me, reading is a sensory pleasure. I relax on a comfortable couch, proving the old adage -- curled up with a good book. I enjoy the feel of books and I like flipping around in the book, reading sentences here or there just to get an idea of where I'm going. None of this can be done with an eBook and I've never wanted to try -- until yesterday.
A couple of days ago I read Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn in one sitting -- over 750 pages. Luckily I had that comfortable couch. For fans of the Twilight saga, you already know the scandal attached to Midnight Sun, Twilight told from Edward's point-of-view. For those of you who don't, an early draft of the book was printed on the internet and the author was so upset she isn't sure she's ever going to finish it. Meyer posted the draft on her own site to forestall illegal downloads elsewhere. So there it is -- a 264 page book only available in electronic format that I had to read.
I did it. I read that book on my computer and it was the longest couple of hours of reading I can remember. I was miserable -- no comfy couch, no thumbing through the pages. It completely messed with my vision for awhile after finishing it -- that scared me the most. I spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer screen, but it's not the kind of absorbed focus you use when reading a book. I do not EVER want to read another eBook.
I know that other eBook machines may allow me to move to that comfy couch, but the other physical discomforts remain. I've taken a close look at the Kindle and the Sony reader, but neither of them made me want to really read a book on them. I got an iPod Touch for Christmas, but the thought of trying to read a book on that is ludicrous! (FictionDB looks great on it though)
Besides my dislike of the physical unpleasantness associated with eBooks, there are several other reasons I won't read eBooks. I love nothing more than finding good books to read and giving them to my friends to try. eBooks are a one-person affair. You download it once and that's it. Now, you can lend someone your Kindle and they can read it there, but let's be real. If I paid that much for an e-reader, there is no way I'd ever lend it out. Telling someone "Go download this book. It's really great" is just not the same as handing it to them. The ability to handsell a book is completely gone with an eBook. I can't tell you how many books I handsell for the book stores I frequent -- they should really pay me! I also love to possess books. I will stand in front of my bookshelves and just savor the feeling of owning all those glorious books. Not quite the same with an eBook.
So what does this mean for my future reading? Everyone says that eBooks are the future. For non-fiction reference materials, I completely agree. The ability to search a book and find relevant information works perfectly with an electronic format. But what about fiction? That thing we all love so much? To tell you the truth, this scares me to death. Will I be able to find new books in the format I want? I do have over 3000 books I haven't read yet and that will certainly keep me going for a while. Maybe the demise of the traditional book won't happen until after I'm gone -- that's what I really hope.