Why I Don't Want an eReader

Tuesday, May 10, 2011
It's no surprise by now that eReaders are popular; while Amazon won't report exactly how many Kindle devices it sold in 2010, many sources estimate the big number is around 8 million. However, don't be counting me among one of those new owners anytime soon.

There's a few reasons why, but first let me start by saying that I totally get the appeal of eReader devices and their benefits. If I were in college, I'd most certainly buy one; imagine, no more lugging around 4-5 heavy textbooks on my shoulder when I could download them all into a light reading device. If I traveled a lot for business, I'd probably have a Nook so that I didn't have to stuff my favorite magazines into my carry-on bag. There's also some evidence that kids would read more if they were reading books on an eReader.

eReaders are certainly transportable and convenient, but unless I really need one I don't necessarily want one. Why not? Well, let me list a few reasons:

I Like Books
I mean an actual physical book, made of paper and binding, in my hands. I guess for me, books make reading a partially sensory experience as you turn the pages, feel the smooth laminated covers, and experience the heft of their weight. Books are organic in a way (they're made of paper, after all) and are warm to me versus a cold, hard piece of technology. When I finish a particularly large novel it's a satisfying feeling of accomplishment, because the weight reminds me of the large amount of pages that I was reading.

Borrowing Books is Cheaper
OK, maybe not by much: according to my quick Google research, downloading a book onto a Kindle can cost anywhere generally from $0 to $10 or so. Still, as I rarely purchase a copy of a novel that's most likely only going to be read once, I'd much rather request the book from my library and save the money.

Other People Can't See What You're Reading
A few years ago I read an article - from the NY Times, I believe - that discussed the dangers that Kindles and other eReaders posed to a book's cover art. After all, if you're reading on a digital device in a public place then other people can't see what book you're reading. Maybe in some cases that's good for the eReader's owner, but bad for the authors whose books are losing some of their in-person advertising and value as a conversation piece. 

They Cannot Replace Coffee Table Books
Some books are just meant to be big, tangible and flipped through, like a full color coffee table book full of luscious photographs. eReaders have screens that are too small to capture the glory of photos and if I'm not mistaken, most of them still display only in black and white. How are you supposed to show off a worthy book to house guests by leaving a Kindle out on your coffee table?

I did think of another advantage to using an eReader: you're saving paper and therefore trees, not to mention space on your bookshelves. I guess in that respect they're more environmentally friendly than paper-based reading products. Still, I just can't fathom running out and buying one anytime soon. 

How about you Go Retro fans? Are you an eReader owner and if so, what do you like/dislike most about it?


  1. I worked at bookstore for ten years... books are in my blood. I do agree with you that there are some plusses, but overall, what I love most about books is buying them! I love to go to a good used bookstore and search the shelves for titles I have never heard of. While I have favorite authors and they range from Joe Bob Briggs to Joyce Carol Oates, I really love to buy super tawdry romances with all that awesome cover art you talked about. Most of my blind buys have been quite good as well. I just don't think you can replace the thrill of the hunt and the internet takes a lot of fun out of it. It's unlikely people do as many blind buys and seriously, that's half the fun!

    As for textbooks, as a student, I don't quite understand eReaders. Sure they make it far more easy to carry, and I know you can highlight and stuff, but nothing works the brains as much as writing notes in the book and marking it up. I can't imagine not being able to do that. It's part of my learning process!

  2. You forgot the smell of books! I love the fragrance of new books. I love the fragrance of old books...even musty books have their charms.

    Two of my sisters swear by their eReaders. It isn't for me. Give me a real book any day!

  3. I'm a librarian, and we've tested eReader devices quite thoroughly, and I hate them. That being said, I have an iPad which I use for reading eBooks and love it!

    Why would someone want a device like a Kindle that can only do one thing? And it doesn't even do that one thing very well - you can basically only use it for your own personal reading, because the vast majority of Uni textbooks aren't available in ePub format (or if they are, they hideously expensive). At least with my iPad, I can view all of the eBooks my library subscribes to (around 400,000) for free.

  4. I actually like having both - i adore books, especially old books, and will continue to read and buy them. But I love my eReader, too. I can borrow e books from the library with it, AND download free pre-1923 Google Books too - all those fabulous Victorian novels and rare NYC guidebooks! So I like having both :)

  5. My Kindle and iPad have completely reinvigorated my reading. I have read more in the last two years because of Kindle (and the apps on my iPhone and iPad) than I had read since college. Here's why:

    1. No dusty paper: for those with allergies, that paper can be an irritant.

    2. No one can see what I'm reading: I can indulge in the trashiest of sci-fi without anyone knowing. Additionally, whateever I'm reading isn't open game to the world to start a comversation with me.

    3. I can find out about a book, download it and be reading within minutes on my Kindle without having to go to a store or hunt it down online.

    BTW, there are MANY books that are free on Kindle. Additionally, many libraries are now loaning books out on ebook readers, so you should check with your local library to see what they support.

    For me, this technology is exactly what they promised me in the past and I love it.

  6. I definitely wouldn't want one of those either. I love my books. I have many about stars, movies, TV and music which look nice displayed in my bookcase. I get my mom certain authors for hers like James Patterson, Jonathan Kellerman and the Murder She Wrote novels that we both enjoy reading.

    We love going to the library too. I hate hearing that some towns are closing theirs because of the budget cuts. We won't even get to use the one in Clark anymore after this year because our town won't be giving out vouchers for the card there. Our town is small and doesn't have one of it's own. I hope that they can get a deal with Cranford because it will be awful not having a free public library to go to.

  7. I wonder if this is the same conversation our parents and grandparents' parents had when they saw the turn of the technological page?

    "Horseless carriage? Why if ol' Betsy can't get me there, why would I want to go?"

    "Moving pictures? Why the legitimate stage is the only entertainment for me."

    "Wireless? You mean strangers talking in my parlor and they aren't even there?"

    "If Aunt Bessie can't come over for an afternoon's talk, why would I want to talk to her over a machine?"

    I agree with everything said here so far. I love books, both hard and paperback. I love the smell, the feel and the artwork on the covers. I even love the trashy "dime novels" and "Harlequin Romances" that will not be digitized for eReaders.

    However, this is the future ladies and gentlemen. We will not like it but it is still coming.

    Soon, like CFLs, our legislators will mandate eReaders for environmental reasons alone. "Think how this will improve the environment and end global warming!"

    Sort of like "Fahrenheit 451."
    Literature won't be outlawed, but books will be.

  8. I was a die hard "no e-reader for me" kind of person until two weeks ago. :) Having said that....I love my e-reader now....but boy did I dig my heels in and resist for a long time!

  9. Would I buy an e reader? Not only no.. but HELL no. Basically.. for all of the reasons you listed, and a few more. My friend got one for his daughter, loaded it up with books, and not soon after.. it locked up and died. He got another one for her, and six months later, the same thing happened.

    While I love books, I'm also cheap. When I really want a book, I shop around and can usually buy them for a song online, and seldom pay $10.00 for a book.

    Then I've heard proponents for e-readers say "but they're so convenient for travel, and you can carry your WHOLE library with you". Honestly, I don't see the need for carrying my entire library with me when I travel. I can take a novel or two and not finish them, even on a loooong vacation. Plus.. I don't have to worry about dropping, crushing, or water damage to an "e-book".

    I could go on and on, but I'll just chock up my views on e-readers to being Old School.. and I'm good with that.

  10. I own 2 ereaders. A Kindle and a Nook Color. I also read paper books. Just because one has an ereader doesn't mean they don't touch books anymore. I also use the library quite often. What I like about the ereader is the portability of it. I have shoulder problems and holding a 400 page hard cover or even going to/from work with it on the subway is impossible. I cannot stand with it, I cannot turn its pages. Even paperbacks are hard to read when balancing on the subway.

    Also what I do like about ereaders is I don't have to pull out my glasses. I can just up the font.

    I actually havent found a con with the ereaders aside from having to buy the books, and if you hunt around enough, you can find cheap or free books (that are good).

    It also works out That I am not collcting books. I had to get rid of at least 500 books this winter because I had no room for them in my apartment. Collecting more would be madness. :)

  11. Maybe both can coexist, just like I have a mp3 player to go to work, and a vynil record player at home.
    Sure it can't replace a good old pictured book, but maybe it's good for novels and magazines?

    As for the environnemental topic, I'm not sure electronic devices are more eco-friendly than paper books made from recycled paper or paper eco-managed forest.

  12. Your reasons:
    1. I Like Books
    I agree with you about the feel of a physical book but we must not loose sight of the fact that the book is just a medium for its content, not an end in itself.
    2. Borrowing Books is Cheaper
    I rarely borrow books, so I have no point of reference.
    3. Other People Can't See What You're Reading
    I fail to understand why this is a "minus". I DO NOT want other people to see what I'm reading. I agree with the above poster, Laura Moncur, on this one.
    4. They Cannot Replace Coffee Table Books
    I agree totally, and books with photos and illustrations will always be better in a physical format.

    Having said all that, I do want an e-reader for the possibility to buy almost any book I want. I live in a city with only one real bookstore so that would be a big plus to me.

  13. There were a ton of comments on here that got deleted when Blogger was doing maintenance; not sure if we'll see them back up but just want to thank everyone for them all. I think it's safe to say people feel strongly one way or another re: eReaders. I can understand why some folks like them but I also get why the old school people don't really feel the need to buy one. Whatever floats your boat.

  14. OMG, I just realized that my post has been deleted.

    And just when I was going to upload it to my eReader for posterity.

    Oh well. Too bad. It was a classic too.

    Wink wink

  15. I don't have an e-reader yet, but I'm leaning in that direction. I don't fetishize the physical object of a book: it's the writing that's important to me (with the exception of things like coffee-table books with lots of artwork, atlases, or sheet music books, of course).

    Books are heavy and take up an inordinate amount of space; my bookshelves are overflowing and in bad need of a purge. And when traveling, stuffing an e-reader into a carryon vs. 3-4 books for airplane / departure lounge reading is no contest. And a book is a huge pain in the ass to try and lay flat on a table to read while eating and have the pages stay open to the passage I'm reading.

    As for cover art and having other people see what I'm reading: meh. I'm with you on the cover art issue with respect to old-school LP records vs. CDs, but don't care about it on books. And I read for my own enjoyment or edification, not to show off my tastes to others.

  16. Oh, and as for the "save the trees" issue, it's a non-issue. Pulpwood is an agricultural product like any other, just on a slightly longer crop cycle: they harvest trees for paper, then plant new ones in their place. Worrying about paper consumption for the purpose of saving trees is like worrying about breakfast cereal consumption for the purpose of saving the oats.

  17. A book's cover art is important because it's additional marketing for the title and a good conversation piece when appropriate. C'mon, wouldn't you want a cutie on the subway sitting across from you to let you know they read the book you're reading?

  18. My parents bought me one for my birthday, but if it wasn't for them, then I wouldn't have one. It certainly won't replace books for me. The main reason I like it is because I can search for and download virtually any book I want. However, I still much prefer books for most of the reasons you mentioned. Emma

  19. This is quite a nice article that I can totally relate to. I have an eReader in my phone but never used it. To me, there's nothing like having a real book in my hands. I especially love old books made in an era where it was pure craftsmanship. I got a ton of them in my library, some dating back to the fifties, forties and thirties. Opening them is clearly like going back in time.

  20. For me,ereaders will never,ever replace the real thing.They of course have their useful place but there's nothing like picking through books at a used bookstore and finding that treasure you've been seeking.

  21. I am an author of 37 books and was one of the last holdouts for real books (which I STILL LOVE) but a Kindle for Christmas and... I'm sold. Love it. And as a writer, the ebook revolution is exciting but can't resist a paper version of a vintage women's humor and advice books, too much fun to flip pages back and forth - haven't mastered that in ebook form.

  22. I wanted to add that I read that the magazine industry is actually getting more readers now. Apparently readership is up, like, 11% from last year. If it saves magazines, then I'm all for it, as I LOVE magazines. But I hope they keep the print issues as well, because that's what I would probably choose to read (especially since I don't have an eReader!). Anyway, being a freelance writer, it's good to see magazines flourishing again.

  23. just found your blog and i love it already ;) i will not be getting one of those reader things any time soon. i can understand why so many people use and enjoy them though. i am just an old hippie and something like that would be out of place in my life. i love my old books! but with 3 daughters in college right now i can certainly understand the attraction of an e-reader versus a pack full of text books!!


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