An argument for electronic books

With apologies to any/everyone, I present:

Neither a bombast nor a Luddite be

Upon reflection, there are reasons five
Why electronic books will make their mark:
Our greatest thoughts will ever more survive,
Free from risk of lover’s hasty spark.

A clever turn of phrase is swiftly search’d.
An instant!  Text in hand, no more make haste;
Spend not one day beside a mailbox perched.
Consider trees, their oxygen laid waste.

If vision dim, enlarge the pixel’d word!
For those who sleep beside, a backlit heav’n.
Pay not a cent with Project Gutenberg!
And now the reasons numerate to sev’n.

For all these reasons, and for hundreds more,
The book with button’d power wins the score.

This week’s writing challenge asked writers to vote on whether they prefer digital books or paperbacks, then explain their choice in a blog post.  If you can’t figure out how I voted, I have failed, utterly.


  1. You make an awesome argument for your choice!

    • Thanks! I know it’s ridiculous, but it was fun to write.

      • Just wondering what your e-reader device of choice is?

        • It wasn’t my choice — as it was a gift — but I really like it. It’s a Samsung Galaxy Tab (7″ screen). I had been looking at single-purpose e-readers but didn’t really like the “blinky” refresh that you get with e-ink, so I was happy to get a more multipurpose model.

          It’s also very cool to be able to flip back and forth between an e-book and, say, Google Maps’ street view, if the novel is based in an unfamiliar city.

  2. Nice one. I’m pro digital either.

  3. I disagree entirely – books rule the world – but this is a fab little poem :)

  4. You are a talented woman! Your arguments are valid but I still love the feel of turning pages. That said, my bookcases floweth over and I could fit far more in electronically. We actually have a Kindle somewhere – no idea where the charger is, but the technology is available to me – somewhat. :D

    • There is a major exception to my save-the-trees argument, namely, kids’ books. We have tons of them and I don’t begrudge their spacehogging for a second. Anything that lets me go to the bathroom without an audience has earned by approval.

      • We’re just purging some of our kids books. (Does my 14-year-old daughter really need The Outback Rocketship any more.) It will give her more room for her masses of horse/animal themed stories. Like her mother, she devours them. My son prefers audiobooks and has made very good friends with the online library. I’m happy with that – as far as I’m concerned, it’s still reading! (And a case in point for your electronic era. :D)

  5. As far as reading for leisure is concerned, I love to lie down and read a good old paperback. But you are completely right about electronic books when it comes to work related stuff. I love having the option of searching for words and immediately finding the pages that I am looking for without having to go through the index and then a hundred pages to find the right one. Especially when reading research papers, it so easy to have electronic copies, so you can get to the part of the paper that really interests you, quickly.

    • Interestingly, I mostly use my e-reader for non-fiction (though not, strictly speaking, work). I’m a search-hound, too. I can’t tell you the number of times a day I am looking for a physical object, annoyed that I can’t just do a simple search to determine its real-world location!

  6. Very cute. I’m just so much a lazy pragmatist when it comes to this eReader vs. hard copy debate. If I’m walking by a book store, I’ll probably go in and buy a book (sorta like an impulse purchase, the same way I buy candy bars at the grocery check out), but if I’m thinking of buying a book, I’ll probably just buy it electronically because it is just so easy.

    • Good distinction. There’s a book I’ve been meaning to buy but I can’t find it in e-format and I feel positively THWARTED. I want! Why can’t have?!

  7. I love love love my kindle touch. It is great! And I can get a new book whenever I want wherever I am.

  8. Excellent! I love the poetic approach, even if I am and will remain a fervent fan of the real book. Thanks for popping by to read my blatherings, much appreciated :)

  9. Ebooks are so much easier to read lying down! All the years of switching sides, holding open a thick hardback with one hand trying to read in bed? UNCIVILIZED! And I’m finally motivated to finish War and Peace, since it weighs the same as every other book. I’m still a fan of real book for genres where it matters – kids books and cookbooks mostly.

    • Agree re: kids books and cookbooks. Not sure I agree about the size, thing, though. Take something like War and Peace or Infinite Jest and yes, you relieve yourself of some of the physical strain of reading, but you also deprive yourself of a tangible reality-check on its non-literary heft. So disconcerting to open an e-book and see that it’s ballooned to thousands of e-pages.

  10. I love reading a real book, turning pages, marking sections… I’ve been thinking I need to take the leap into the next century and try an electronic version because it would make my bag so much lighter for a start and I think one can mark passages …
    But I don’t like reading on a computer and think my eyes will get tired. Any comments?

    • There is a definite weight advantage to e-readers (possible exception: iPad). It’s truly more like reading a book than looking at a computer screen, I think — with the added bonus of being able to enlarge the font, change the page background (usual options are white, sepia, and black with white text (perfect for reading in the dark) and even adjust the screen brightness. And yes, most readers allow you to mark passages and even make “margin notes” (something I’d never do to a paper book).

      • So your eyes don’t get tired with the e-reader?
        I’ve been leaning towards getting an iPad – and thougth of waiting for the new one due out at the end of the year because I hope it will have an easier to read font.

        • Ah, and depending on the app you use, you can select different fonts, too! Apple’s “retina display” is fantastic but I don’t know what products have it right now. Worth waiting for, in my opinion.

          My eyes don’t get fatigued using an e-reader — mostly because I can tweak all the settings for maximum comfort, but also possibly because I have two small children, so most of my reading time is subject to (repeated) interruption. :-)

  11. Sigh, I hear you but I’m still not convinced and I haven’t gone to the dark side yet…

  12. The first time I received an e-reader as a gift, I returned it, totally committed to physical books. But alas, the second time I received an e-reader as a gift (Kobo) a year later, I succumbed. I love having at my finger tips hundreds of books to choose from especially when I’m travelling. But I still like the feel of a book in my hands and prefer a physical book when I’m home.

  13. What was fairly profound for me, despite being a techie, was that while I was reading a book that was published in 1896 (The Island of Doctor Moreau, H.G.Wells, and realizing that there was something profound happening while I was typing in the log/lat cordinate into Google Maps because I was reading a book that was over 100 years old on the same device I could look at those exact coordinates! I was literally stunned for a few seconds at this revelation!

    Digital books will only flourish if DRM is kept out of them. To be bound to one provider and have them yank your whole account without just cause (You can read more on this here Personally, I think Cory Doctorow( has got it right.

  14. I thought I would be againt e readers and the like. Part of the love of books is the smell, feel and look of them on a book shelf. Digital is just not the same. Well then we moved over seas and my suitcases were filled with books for teaching and personal use. I debated. Real books take up a lot of space and can easily put you over weight. I bought an ipad last summer to make travel easier for skype and emails. A fellow co worker gave me a few ebooks. The weight and akwardness still turned me off. They sat unread on my virtual bookshelf. When a book I wanted was not avaialble at any local bookstores and was much cheaper as a download I thought I would give it a go. I actually liked it! Through the Kindle App you get the look of paper and the page flip. It is a bit heavy, but when propped up with a pillow it is OK.
    I think I still prefer paper to read and display as ‘art’ on a bookshelf, but ebooks are great too… they are much easier to carry on a portable device where I can also email, skype, listen to music and play games!
    Happy reading :)

    • I use a different app but also prefer the “page flip” to the more laptop-like “scroll.” Funny how attached were are to old habits even in the context of new mediums (media?).

      • How true. Is that a sign of our age? I hate reading things on the computer especailly the scroll. It always jumps to far, then you need to find your place… ARG! Remember when computers used to have the typewriter click for those who couldn’t type silentely? I remember reading about an author who needed to have the noise because without it he couldn’t write!
        What app are you using?

  15. Ah, electronic books. For me it’s been a love-hate relationship, as I often “put down” one e-book and then completely forget about it. I must have at least 20 unfinished books by now. Strangely enough, I haven’t have any of the problems that I saw mentioned in other comments: my eyes don’t hurt, I don’t generally feel a need to mark pages, and I really do appreciate the reduced weight. It’s a bit of a shame, but when at home I still need the physical presence of a book!

    • Actually, now that you mention it, I find it’s a lot easier to abandon e-books, too. Maybe because it’s not taking up physical space, demanding attention (or at a minimum, requiring dusting).

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.

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