Why I Like Ebooks

Please note, before I begin: The title of this piece is not “Why you should like ebooks.” It’s “Why I like ebooks.” I’m both amused and irritated when questions of subjective taste get treated as arguments about morality or character or the well-being of society. So I’m both amused and irritated when people insist that ebooks represent the decay of all that is truly beautiful about reading — and when people insist that people who prefer paper books are out-of-touch fuddy-duddies who need to get with the times.

That being said: I do have a personal preference for ebooks over paper books — so this piece is a bit more of a pushback against the “Ebooks are destroying literature!” crowd. I like ebooks. Unless a book is an art book or has a lot of illustrations, I almost always buy books in ebook form if I can. I think this is a reasonable preference. Here’s why — and also, here’s why I understand that some people feel differently.

suitcases airline tickets and globe
Travel. I travel a lot — and my ebook reader has been the secular equivalent of a godsend. Before ebooks, I hated the fact that when I was traveling, I had to decide ahead of time exactly what I wanted to read. I often wound up bringing four or five books with me — making my suitcase heavier, with less room for other stuff — and I still often wound up not being in the mood for any of them. (“I thought I wanted to read Great Expectations on this trip, but I’m just not in the mood for something that serious — can’t I just read Georgette Heyer again? No, because I don’t have it with me.”) When I’m tired and crabby at the end of a travel day, or bored and crabby on an airplane, I love having hundreds of books to choose from.

Plus, I love being able to flip back and forth between my books, depending on what I’m in the mood for — the serious novel or science book at the beginning of the long plane ride, the light familiar comfort book at the end of a long day. That’s also true when I’m at home, but it’s even more true when I travel. I’m something of a promiscuous reader — I often read more than one book in parallel. And I don’t always know what book I’ll be in the mood for when I’ve finished the last one. Ebooks make this a non-issue.

Immediacy. I love, love, LOVE the fact that, with an ebook reader, I can buy a book the minute I hear about it. Ebooks mean that I’m not wandering into bookstores asking the clerk, “There was this book I heard about a few weeks ago, I don’t remember the title or the author, but it was something about feminism and pop culture, or maybe the history of female characters in pop culture, or something like that, it had a writeup in the New Yorker, or maybe it was The Toast.” With ebooks, I can buy a book the minute I hear about it. (This is also dangerous, of course — being able to buy books on impulse means buying more books — but this is at least somewhat mitigated by the fact that ebooks tend to be less expensive.)

pile-of-money
Cost. Ebooks tend to be less expensive.

Storage. Our apartment has limited space, what with it being a space in the physical world that does not have a wormhole to another dimension where we can store an infinite large library. It’s nice to be able to buy books without worrying about the fact that our bookshelves are full and the piles of books on the floor in front of our bookshelves are starting to topple over.

Books don’t have to go out of print. With print books, if a publisher decides that it’s not worth doing a second or third or tenth printing, then once they’ve sold the first five thousand or fifty thousand or five hundred thousand or whatever — that’s it. No more copies. Publishers have to decide ahead of time how many copies of a book they think they’ll sell, and there are economies of scale involved — it costs a certain amount to do a print run at all, of any size. So if they don’t think they can sell enough to make another print run worth it — that’s it. No more copies.

With ebooks, once a book has been published, there’s no reason for it to disappear. Once a book is out there, it doesn’t cost the publisher any more to “publish” another thousand copies, another hundred copies, another ten copies, another copy.

(Slight tangent: I wonder how this is going to change the publishing industry, when and if print books are obsolete and all books are ebooks. I wonder if publishers will be more likely to take chances on quirky books or untested authors, when the investment is lower because they don’t have to sink money into a physical print run.)

Privacy. I like being able to read porn in airports, and not worry about who’s noticing the fact that I’m reading porn. I’m sure other people feel the same way: about porn, atheist books, queer books, romance novels, any number of kinds of books that people sometimes want to keep private. (Although there is a flip side to this, which I’ll get to in a bit.)

Heaviness. Seriously. Do you ever have that thing where there’s a long book you want to read, but you just can’t face the thought of lugging it around, and reading it in bed at night seems like a chore? I love the fact that with ebooks, long books are exactly as easy to physically manage as short ones.

Reading at night without a light. With my ebook reader, I can read at night without having to keep a light on. This makes it easier for Ingrid to sleep.

Adjustable type size. As I get older and my eyesight gets shittier, I appreciate the fact that literally every ebook I own can be a large-type book if I need it to.

Looking up words. This isn’t that big a deal, but it doesn’t suck: I like the Dictionary feature of ebooks. I like that when I’m reading, and I encounter an unfamiliar word, it’s super-easy to look it up.

Ecology. This is the closest I come to an argument that ebooks are actually objectively superior and all other people should use them (although again, I’m not actually making that argument). Physical print books have more of an ecological footprint than ebooks. Printing them means cutting down trees; shipping them around the country takes gas. Ebooks do have an ecological footprint — you have to make and ship the ebook reader, you occasionally have to replace it, and you have to keep it charged which takes electricity — but it’s not as much as the footprint of paper books.

Finally, and very importantly:

Why Are You Atheists So Angry
Ebooks are why I can work full-time as a writer.

This is a different angle, obviously — it’s why I like ebooks as a writer and not as a reader — but it’s not trivial. And it does have relevance to why I like ebooks as a reader.

Self-publishing is much, MUCH harder with physical books than it is with ebooks. It’s easier now than it used to be, with the advent of on-demand printing — but it’s still not easy. Ebooks have made self-publishing a much more low-cost, low-risk venture. Once you’ve taken the time to actually write the book itself — which is obviously not trivial, from an author’s point of view it’s by far the biggest investment — the investment is pretty low. Paying a formatter, paying a cover artist, whatever you want to spend on promotion — that’s it.

And once you’ve factored in the initial investment of time and formatting and whatnot, the margin is pretty good. (With self-publishing on Kindle, authors keep 70% of the cover price on sales in most regions — WAY more than standard royalties we get from even the most generous print publishers.) Plus, see above, about how books never have to go out of print. You can keep bringing in income from a book, years after it’s been published, without having to worry about your book going out of print.

And that’s made it easier for writers to make a living. Specifically, it’s made it easier for writers to make a living, or at least part of a living, if we don’t have huge mainstream appeal, but we do have a healthy readership in a particular subculture (like, oh, say, just to pick an example completely at random, organized atheism).

What’s more, it means that writers can decide for ourselves whether our books have a market. When I was first trying to get Why Are You Atheists So Angry? published, I was told by several of the big publishers that (a) books with the word “atheism” or “atheist” in the title wouldn’t sell; (b) books with the word “angry” in the title wouldn’t sell; (c) I didn’t have a big enough platform to effectively promote it.

I knew this was bullshit, on all three counts. I was right.

Self-publishing means that writers don’t have to convince a publisher that our books are marketable, and that it’s worth the investment of a print run. It means that if we know that our blog post about atheist anger went super-viral, if we know that our YouTube video about atheist anger went super-viral, if we know that every time we give our talk about atheist anger it gets met with wild applause, if we know that there are a whole lot of people in the atheist community who want their anger validated and who want to explain that anger to their friends and family — for that matter, if we know that the atheist community, you know, exists — we don’t have to beat our heads against the wall at the ignorance of the Big Five publishing houses. We can shrug our shoulders, scoff at how out of touch they are, and just do it ourselves.

This is good for me as a writer. And it’s good for me as a reader. It doesn’t just mean that I can make a living as a writer. It means that I can read books by other writers who didn’t need to find print publishers for their work — because they were able to self-publish.

That being said, there are things that I like about physical print books, and that make me understand why some people prefer them.

modern times bookstore san francisco
Bookstores. This is the big one. I like bookstores. I want to support bookstores. I like going into a business run by people who care about books, and browsing a selection curated by people who care about books. It exposes me to books I might not have found out about — and as an author, it exposes my work to readers who might not have found out about me. What’s more, bookstores can act as cultural centers — and cultural centers centered on books are, in my opinion, Good Things. Plus, they provide a living for book nerds.

Bookshelves. I like going into people’s houses and browsing their bookshelves. It gives me a sense of who they are, and it gives me ideas about things I might like to read. And I like it when other people come to our house and look at our bookshelves: it gives them a sense of who we are, and gives them ideas about things they might like to read.

There is a solution to this that I’m considering. I’m considering getting one of those electronic picture frames, those devices that display a rotating gallery of images — and putting book covers from our ebook collections on it, and putting it in our library, so people who visit can browse our ebooks, just like they can browse our shelves. It might be more trouble than it’s worth, though — I’d have to either figure out a way to automatically update it when we buy new books, or update it by hand every so often. It’s certainly not as easy as sticking a book on the shelf and having it go in the gallery — but it would be better than nothing.

Reading in the bath. Has anyone tried those ebook waterproofing doodads? Do they work? I like to read in the bath; it would be nice to be able to read whatever book(s) I’m currently reading, and not whatever book I’m willing to get wet.

Something resembling permanence. It scares me to think that, if modern civilization collapsed and were then re-built over hundreds of years, any book published only as an e-book would probably be lost. Books that were printed as physical books might get saved. We can read things today that were written in ancient China or ancient Rome. If those things had been published only on some ancient version of ebooks, we probably wouldn’t be able to.

Thoughts? Do you prefer one book format to another — and if so, why? If possible, please frame your responses in terms of your personal preferences, rather than Why Everyone Else Should Like The Same Format I Do And Anyone Who Doesn’t Is Just Plain Wrong. Thanks.

Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPG
Coming Out Atheist
Bending
why are you atheists so angry
Greta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

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Why I Like Ebooks
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27 thoughts on “Why I Like Ebooks

  1. 1

    I bought a waterproofing ziploc bag for five or ten bucks on clearance at Target and used it to read on a small Kindle Fire in an hot tub- it worked great. It has three or four ziploc lines and a lot of heavy velcro to roll up the top of it. I presume the plastic was some kind of special stuff that transmitted touch.

    One of my favorite things about ebooks is being able to look up names & characters when I forget. The book I’m reading now, Katherine Addison’s “The Goblin Emperor”, has a lot of similar fantasy names, and it makes things a lot easier when I can just tap on the name and look up all the appearances of that character. (I use the iOS reader “Marvin”, which has a specific function to analyze all the character names.)

    I also agree about the size of books- I read a lot of history and SF doorstops, which are awkward to carry around. The downside there is that it can be hard to refer back to maps, but I can live with that.

  2. 2

    I prefer library books, for a few of the same reasons. They’re free, and I don’t have to store them. Storage is an especially big deal to me; owning stuff I don’t use gives me aesthetic dissonance. Additionally, the limited timeframe motivates me to actually read them. I have Goodreads to keep track of what I’ve read.

    I’ve also bought a couple ebooks that were too obscure to be in the library. My impressions are dominated by the fact that these are the kinds of books which are too obscure to be in the library, but in any case I’m happy enough with the medium.

  3. 3

    I have some ebooks, too, but mostly works in the public domain. When I can pick up a physical book for pretty much the same price as what an ebook costs, I would rather have the physical book.

  4. 4

    I’m very much still a physical-media kind of a guy, but you do make a number of very compelling arguments here.

    There’s a couple of additional arguments I’d like to make in favour of physical books:

    Second-hand books. The vast majority of my library was bought second-hand, mostly for pennies from charity shops. I’ve found some great books this way, and second-hand bookshops are my favourite kind of bookshops. It also offsets the ecological-footprint issue quite a bit. (This may also be related to why I’m still mostly a physical-media kind of a guy for other forms of media – I like to think I’m actually buying a thing, which I can keep, loan, or resell, rather than merely buy a license to view content.)

    Smell. I’m just going to quote BtVS here:

    Jenny Calendar: Honestly, what is it about them that bothers you so much?

    Giles: The smell.

    Jenny Calendar: Computers don’t smell, Rupert.

    Giles: I know. Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is. A certain flower, or a-a whiff of smoke can bring up experiences long forgotten. Books smell musty and-and-and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer is a… it, uh, it has no-no texture, no-no context. It’s-it’s there and then it’s gone. If it’s to last, then-then the getting of knowledge should be, uh, tangible. It should be, um, smelly.

    But yes, in particular, the portability of eBooks really does appeal. I’m just not sure I’m ready to get sucked in to yet another upgrade cycle…

    The point you make about the changed economics of publishing is very interesting indeed. I wonder if we might see similar things happening in the music industry? I know it already is happening to some extent, but nobody I know who’s taken advantage of it is really in the position of being able to make a living from it… Perhaps the difference is that the culture of copyright infringement is already too well-established in that area?

  5. 5

    I’m enough of a book-design nerd not to be satisfied with the thin auto-layout/default-font gruel of the typical e-book, but I expect e-book design to improve a lot over time.

    Footnote links are another excellent e-book feature (when they work), but jumping back to an arbitrary point (a map, picture, or just something you want to re-read) will probably always be easier with a physical book.

    I love getting classics for free! But I also love making serendipitous finds in a used bookstore.

  6. 6

    Another positive thing about e-books is that you can often adjust the background, font style, and font size. Not only is this good for people with vision impairment – but can help those of us who have learning disabilities. Some fonts are harder to read. Also black print on stark white paper tends to be harder to read. In my case that combination makes the letters jump around more. Also audio books that sync with e-books can also be very beneficial. Reading along with audio books can help those who are struggling with reading.

  7. 7

    I don’t like e-readers. In fact I’ve lost my Kindle and have no idea where I put it. I like to skim books I’ve read for favorite sections, something that is harder on an e-book. (My current favorite book for doing this is Suspect by Robert Crais. I love the portions from the dog’s point of view.) I tried to run my Kindle like I run my bookshelves, piling unread books in a single place and separating read books out into different folders based on genre. It didn’t work; sorting books is a property of the folder, not the book, so it was a cumbersome process. I can’t remember descriptions of books which may have influenced me to buy it, and I can’t read them on the e-book the way I can on the back of a print book. I can’t pass along a good e-book to a friend.

  8. raj
    8

    The last book I purchased, “On the Historicity of Jesus”, I bought the hardback as well as the ebook. The book is huge, so even when reading at home it’s easier to hold the ebook reader than the actual book.

    Mostly, I bought the hardback simply because ebooks can’t be shared, or can only be shared for a small number of weeks. If I want someone else to read even part of the book, I can’t loan them the ebook.

    There’s a reason why ebooks are cheaper. It’s never really fully yours to do with as you like. In effect, you’re paying for the right to access it and that’s about all.

  9. 9

    I’ve been emphasizing e-books in my acquisitions since I decided that I want to downsize to a Tiny House. Prior to that, I had thousands (I’m guessing) of hard copy books that I’ve been slowly, but steadily paring down. So my reason is almost overwhelmingly that I won’t have space for my current library. But I’ve been reading every one before I give them away.

    Once I’ve read the book, My first choice is to give them to a library. However, most libraries only keep hardcover books for circulation, so my approach has been (and will continue to be):
    1) Check my city library’s online catalog. If my book is hardcover and NOT in the catalog, my city library gets the book.
    2) Segregate the remainder and offer them for free to any guests in my home.
    3) Any book not disposed of through the above, after 2 months in my “give away to friends” shelves, go to a local free book exchange. It’s a non-profit that pays their rent by selling some of them as used books through Amazon (only about 2%). The rest? Given away – free – to anyone who walks in. Maximum 2 books per customer per visit without an exchange. Donors of books get extra credit – 2 books for free for each book donated!
    4) Unfortunately, the free book exchange lost their storefront to a massive rent hike a couple of weeks ago. I think, for my next round, I’ll be donating to my local library. Since, in step 1, I’ve already given them the books they are likely to keep, these will most likely be sold at their quarterly book sale.

    As far as keeping books, 2 categories are (almost) definite keepers:
    1) Signed copies
    2) Coffee Table books

    However, I’ve already rid myself (mournfully) of a number of railroad related coffee table books (railroad history – and pictures – are one of my particular interests). I just had too many to even consider displaying them in a tiny home. These went to a special location, my old Model Railroad club, who also operate a museum of California Railroad history. All but two have been added to their library, the two duplicates were sold at auction to benefit the operating fund of the Museum.

    All books that I’d read at least twice also went onto a special list: Buy in e-book form as finances allow. It’s a LONG list, and I only buy when I get the urge to reread a book I’ve already removed from my library. This is currently coming up about once a month.

    There is one category remaining that I’m having a very had time parting with, but I know I must before I go tiny: Cookbooks! There are only two that are definite keepers: A late 60’s edition of the Joy of Cooking and one with 500 chicken recipes (I love chicken!) that I’ve been using to make chicken in a new way once/week for about the last 5 years. I’ve “allocated” 3 linear feet of bookshelf in my tiny house designs for cookbooks, but I’ve got 9 linear feet on hand. I’d welcome suggestions for criteria to cut this down. It’s HARD!

  10. 10

    For a long time I had a strong preference for physical books (I’ve moved some fifteen times that I can remember, and I’ve always carted box after box after backbreaking box with me), but my wife got me a Kindle Voyage for my birthday and I love it. My reasons are basically the same as those you’ve outlined above. I also agree with Scott: being able to look up names or places to find previous mentions is a really fantastic feature (something that I also found very helpful while reading The Goblin Emperor).

  11. 11

    I read almost exclusively on my Kindle, now. I do read from physical books, but mostly those are either books someone lends me, or that I get as a gift. When I decide I want to read something, I just get the ebook.

  12. 12

    I’m an autodidact, and the Internet combined with an ebook reader really allows me to learn just about anything that interests me for little to no cost. There’s a goldmine of free books to be had out there if one knows where to look, and side loading them onto a device is easy enough.

    Books from the library are also nearly free, but have to be returned and so can’t be kept for reference or re-reading. I have hundreds of books on my device, and I’ve only ever paid for a handful of them. I especially like being able to read the classics, group my books together by topic and stay well organized. There’s also great free software out there for transcribing formats from different readers, file types, etc. The only thing I miss is the look of a nice bookshelf!

  13. 13

    Considering the giant savings the publications industry (which is basically a highly optimized system for moving dead trees…) attains with E-books, the cost should be dramatically lower and it wouldn’t affect their profit margins. Not that they’re doing particularly well… But they’re changing their business model on the backs of the savings they are pocketing on distribution.

    That said, I love books of every type.

  14. 14

    Heaviness.

    I’m slightly surprised that you only mention reading in bed. I’ve found that when I’m lying on the couch, and I have to hold the book at arm’s length and at an angle because there’s a cat butt in my face, a 500-page book is much lighter when it’s on an ereader.

    On the flip side, I’ve read several books on paper recently even when an electronic version was available, simply because the paper version is more beautiful: paper books are usually typeset by a person rather than by an algorithm; they have things like heading and text fonts chosen to work together, visual kerning, and so on. It takes more than a click to look up an unfamiliar term, but it’s a more beautiful object.

  15. 15

    Only around 2% of the books I read are paper books. I’ve loved ebooks since I started reading them way back (2002?) on a Sony Clie. But the E-Ink based readers are so much nicer.

    And the display of ebooks is only going to get better, as computer power increases and better algorithms can be used in the layout of paragraphs and pages.

    I just wish the technology for low-power reflective colour displays would mature.

  16. 16

    When I was working in IT, my Kindle allowed me to have O’Reilly manuals that would have weighed over a hundred pounds in my shoulder bag, and I could search them faster electronically than I could flipping back and forth from index to text.

    If I could still tote a backpack up into the Sierras, I’d appreciate the weight savings even more. I loved reading in my tent before falling asleep. The original non-backlit Kindle would be ideal for this.

  17. 17

    I love this post because I read both ebooks and physical copies for a variety of complicated reasons, and I get so frustrated with the endless debate over which format is better. Each obviously has its advantages and disadvantages. I’m a librarian–so really, as long as people WANT to read, then I’m happy.

  18. 18

    Siggy says

    I prefer library books, for a few of the same reasons. They’re free, and I don’t have to store them.

    The libraries in our community have ebooks and audiobooks for loan. They use an app called “Overdrive” that is available on almost any sort of computer/e-reader (Windows, Mac, iPad/iPhone, Android, Nook App, Kindle App).

  19. 19

    I love both kinds, but contrary to what you said about cost, for recent books there seems to me to usually be very little difference in the cost. The e-book is usually only a dollar or two cheaper than a physical book, and while it may not be entirely rational that *feels* to me like I’m being cheated, knowing that the cost of production is so vanishingly low.

    The bookshelf effect is also huge with me. Almost every wall in my flat is book-lined (kitchen area and restroom excepted) and that just gives me immense psychological comfort, like being surrounded by friends rather than just knowing I can call them on the phone. I have enough that I can browse in my own house and find surprise books that I’d forgotten I’d bought.

    One big indirect change that the e-book revolution has brought to me has to do with that; I no longer buy any mass market paperbacks. If I’m getting a physical book it’s going to be a hardcover or a quality softcover, something that looks relatively nice as an object and has a degree of physical cohesiveness such that it’s not going to split at the spine if I pick it up again a few years later.

    In service of that and my budget and ecological footprint, I’d like to give a joyful shout-out to betterworldbooks.com – they do sell new books as well, but it’s in the realm of used books they shine, especially ex-library hardcovers. They’re super cheap, they ship promptly, there’s an optional carbon-neutral shipping surcharge, and every book you buy from them supports world literacy programs as well. Their website is amazing too, it has one of the best search functions of any online book store – I can specify format, category, price, author, and keywords in any combination, and the selection is huge.

  20. 20

    For reading in the tub I just use a quart Ziploc freezer bag. (Pro tip: the freezer label goes on the back of the e-reader!) I have a book/beverage stand that sits across the tub, which minimizes the contact with wet hands.
    ***
    I also have a more sturdy case for beach use – TrendyDigital WaterGuard. Thicker plastic, double zip, and a foldover snap. Verdict: it keep sand and water out unless you’re actually reading whilst lying in the surf with waves washing over you. Then a bit of wet sand gets caked in the foldover and a few drops of moisture can sneak inside. No damage to the device, and I’ve used the case for 4 years.
    ***
    …why yes, I am quite fond of watery reading.

  21. 21

    Like several other people, I like both physical books and ebooks. I take my kindle when I’m traveling (although I don’t have any Georgette Heyer in it), going somewhere like the doctor’s office where I’m going to wait, or basically anywhere out of the house. But in the house I read books. I like the feel of books, I like the smell of books, and I like not having to plug the book into the wall to recharge it.

    Some years ago a small child was visiting my house. She wandered from room to room, looking at the books in the bookcases. Finally she asked me: “Have you read all of these books?” I replied: “Some of them twice.”

  22. 22

    I’ve never read an ebook. There are many people like me who cannot afford theses luxuries. Living on social security does not give one a lot of disposable income. I read hundreds of books a year; no way I could buy those, let alone coming up with the money for an e reader. I am totally dependent on my local libraries which is fine with me because I have been a library hound since age of about seven.

  23. 23

    I’ve never read an ebook. There are many people like me who cannot afford theses luxuries. Living on social security does not give one a lot of disposable income. I read hundreds of books a year; no way I could buy those, let alone coming up with the money for an e reader.

    leontiev @ #22: Understood. Just on the off-chance that you don’t already know this: You don’t need a dedicated e-reader to read ebooks. If you have access to my blog, you have access to ebooks (you can read them on computers or phones). And many ebooks are free.

  24. 24

    leontiev @ 22:

    I’ve never read an ebook. There are many people like me who cannot afford theses luxuries.

    You hit a very important point, and one that exceeds your country: many places in the world live in poverty. There, ebooks are as distant of the daily life possibilities as space travel. Technology only arrives there after it has been discarded or superseded elsewhere. Even developed countries have large areas where technology is an unaffordable luxury.

    Ebooks are dependent on additional technology (electricity and computers at the very least). Paper books do not need anything but themselves to be useful. That in itself should be reason enough to never expect nor wish the total disappearance of material books. They’re needed to propagate and preserve knowledge, even in the total absence of technology.

  25. 25

    One advantage to physical books that Is maybe a little weird but I find that I get an additional sense of excitement as the weight in my left hand grows in comparison to my right hand as I read. Strange, irrational, whatever it is there.

    As for e-readers in poorer areas I remember there was a kick starter campaign for bringing e-readers to schools on developing countries so that those schools could have a library without a physical library. It seemed to be started by a Christian organization so I was somewhat concerned by which books might be loaded into the libraries but it seemed a good idea.

  26. 26

    I prefer ebooks for the same sorts of reason Greta does, but a few comments:

    The environmental cost of ebooks should also include the vast data warehouses companies like Amazon use to store and sell the books. This is not at all trivial, but I’ve no idea whether it’s better or worse, on balance, than cutting down trees.

    ebooks can go – effectively – out of print if they are afflicted with Digital Rights Management. If the owner of the DRM decides nobody can read a book any more then nobody can (without breaking the DRM). In fact, it can be worse than going out of print because the DRM owner could also delete all existing copies of those books from everyone’s devices.

    On a similar note, we can actually own physical books and can do whatever we like with them. We don’t own ebooks that have DRM and we can only do what the DRM owner decides we can. And there’s nothing to stop DRM owners from changing their minds about what you can do with the books you’ve paid for.

    Text books are not always great on an ebook reader. Sometimes you need to zoom in on diagrams and then painstakingly look at them a piece at a time. Footnotes can be a pain when they’re not mixed right in with the text.

    But I still greatly prefer ebooks and the only reason I’d buy a tree book these days is if there are lots of diagrams and footnotes that will make it a pain to read.

  27. 27

    […] Privacy. I like being able to read porn in airports, and not worry about who’s noticing the fact that I’m reading porn. I’m sure other people feel the same way: about porn, atheist books, queer books, romance novels, any number of kinds of books that people sometimes want to keep private… […]

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