Why I Love and Hate E-books

msc I have been an avid reader my entire life.  As a young adult, I would sometimes spend several hours a day reading; I’ve often stayed up past my bedtime to finish a good book; and it’s not uncommon for me to take six or seven books on vacation and read them all.   I was very intrigued by the Kindle when it was first released, because the thought of having access to multiple books,  newspapers and magazines  in one device was extremely attractive.  On the other hand, I like reading the physical book, or curling up on the couch with the paper and a cup of coffee.  During the winter of 2009-2010, when back-to-back blizzards meant no newspaper delivery for a week, I was bemoaning the lack of the newspaper; my husband pointed out I could read it online, but I’ve tried it and I just don’t enjoy it.

When I purchased a Droid 2 last summer, I ignored the Kindle app for a long time.  I finally broke down and purchased a book over the winter, when I needed to read the selection for my book club and hadn’t gotten to the library to get it. It wasn’t a bad experience – I could read a few pages while standing in line someplace, waiting to pick up my daughter, or while outside with the dog, and since I’m never without my phone, I was never without my book.  It still wasn’t the same as sitting down with a book, and I keep a book by my bed to read before I go to sleep at night, but it served its purpose.  Over time, I’ve purchased a few more books, which I’ve read in airplanes, cars, and during the other aforementioned activities.  I like the convenience, but I’m still dissatisfied by the overall experience.  For that reason, I was disappointed to read the following in the morning paper (yes, the printed copy of The Washington Post):

Kindle Amazon e-book sales outstrip those for print

Amazon, the largest online retailer, said sales of electronic books have overtaken those of printed versions for the first time, a sign of the growing dominance of its Kindle digital reader.

Amazon now sells 105 electronic books for every 100 printed ones, the Seattle-based company said. The pace of U.S. book sales this year is the fastest the company has seen in more than a decade, Amazon said. Sales of e-books surpassed hardcover titles in July and overtook paperbacks six months later.

Consumers can read Amazon’s e-books on one of its four Kindle readers, priced from $114 to $379, as well as on smartphones, tablets and personal computers.

Amazon may have sold more than 8 million Kindles last year, accounting for about 5 percent of sales, according to Benchmark. Amazon does not disclose Kindle sales figures, other than saying it’s the company’s best-selling product.

I think one of the biggest reasons I dislike e-books, however, is the fact that they can’t easily be shared.  I have several good friends who are also avid readers, and when I’ve read something I’ve really enjoyed, I will often lend it to a friend and tell them they have to read it.  I’ve also borrowed books from friends, and members of my book club will pass books around.  I share a book with someone because I’ve enjoyed it and I want them to have the same pleasure; it’s a way for me to express friendship and share common interests.  I can’t very well hand someone my Droid and say “Here, you have to read this amazing book I just finished, but you have to read it now because I need my phone back”. Sure, I can tell them about the book and recommend they read it, but it’s not the same.  The Nook will let you lend an e-book, but with restrictions: It can only be lent one time, for a 14-day period, and only if the publisher allows it.  It also requires the lendee to own a Nook as well. Amazon allows you to lend a book, with similar restrictions: only for 14 days, only if the publisher allows it, and the lendee must be an Amazon.com member.  Lending a physical book is not limited by technology.

Amazon has announced plans for Kindle  Library Lending later this year, through a partnership with Overdrive, although no specific details have been released.  Maybe I’ll like e-books better if I can borrow them from a library, as opposed to purchasing everything I read; that more closely resembles how I read books now.  I still doubt that anything will replace curling up with a good book, however.