I know what you’re thinking. “Caitlan, you moved overseas, started a book blog and didn’t pack a single book. you’re a FRAUD.” I sound stupid right? I had a pretty hectic collection of books back in Australia. But when we moved I decided to store them for the two years we would be gone (that in itself was a stressful experience).
After we moved and I had started to settle in I got really back into reading and that led to starting Redhead Rage Reads. And though I do feel a little fraudulent I thought I would take the opportunity to weigh in on one of the greater debates; E-readers or hardcovers? What team are you?
I am an e-reader convert
I stumbled into using a Kindle when a friend gave me one in trade for a fitbit. In my opinion, I won out on that arrangement. I have gotten exponentially more joy from my Kindle than my fitbit ever gave me. My Kindle is by no means new (I think it’s a 7th gen?). And if you’re in the market the latest ones are very snazzy and come with features like splash resistance and backlighting. As a bath n book kind of gal I regularly think of updating for the water resistance alone but the minimalist in me irks at that.
So what’s the case for e-readers?
There is a ton of evidence in the case for e-readers. Historically, they were criticised for things like poor battery life and ink contrast. But now technology has caught up and a lot of these issues have been resolved.
Personally, I love the portability of my Kindle. I also love the highlight and note features. I love being able to keep a digital record of quotes and I also find this handy for when I write reviews. Being an avid Goodreads user the compatibility with the kindle is so handy.
I have heard people say reading on e-readers just isn’t the same and though this may be anecdotally correct, the studies prove differently.
Seigenthaler, for example found reader processing (such as eye movement and eye fixation) was very similar between book and e-reader users.
In 2008, Erika Engelhaupt completed a Lifecycle assessment of e-readers compared to books and found it’s not just about saving trees:
“There’s a lot you should look at in terms of the natural resources needed to produce a book, but there’s also the physical storage of those books, shipping books, and consumers driving to the bookstore. With an e-reader, you eliminate those.”
I feel it is also super important to note the accessibility features of e-readers. Specifically, for low vision users the text sizing features can be easily applied to books across your Kindle library. I am also a sucker for reading 3-4 books at a time and being able to have any of them available to me where ever I am is heavenly. Also, how else am I going to buy that sequel at 3 am so I can know how the cliffhanger ends?
So, I acknowledge e-readers aren’t perfect. I can’t lend someone my copy of a digital book. I can’t emboss the pages, or cultivate an insta-worthy bookshelf. I don’t look nearly as cool reading on the bus.
It is also argued that e-readers set a precedent for the sellers of the book having more control over them then the authors, publishers or readers.
Even though we talked about how well they stack up against books, e-readers aren’t free of environmental impact. Production and recycling of e-readers are environmentally demanding. Hope isn’t lost though. We can lower environmental impact by reading on them often and for as long as possible before updating. And when you do go to recycle your e-reader; do so consciously. A study by the Cleantech group reported that “A user that purchases fewer than 22.5 books per year would take longer to neutralize the emissions resulting from the e-reader, and even longer to help reduce emissions attributed to the publishing industry,” – and I know I have definitely surpassed that number.
Ultimately, I know the feel and smell of a good, hardcopy book cannot be replaced. I miss borrowing from a library and crave the feeling of lending a friend a well loved novel.
But, for an expat who can’t afford to store or transport a bunch of books, right now an e-reader gives me a limitless, portable reading collection. And I feel like keeping my older kindle and not updating it is my little way to further compensate for that pesky carbon foot print.
So, to all the hardcovers and paper books I have loved before. I promise that one day, when I am older and I am in my dream house there will be beautiful bookshelves for you. Ones that reach to the ceiling and surround the comfiest, winged armchair you have ever seen. I promise I will come back to you.