There, I said it. I said it outright and as a priority statement. I love ebooks. They’re useful, tend to be cheaper, easier to carry around, adjustable, and can be read aloud to you.
So why is there still stigma towards people who read them?
I understand the desire to fill your home with physical books, trust me I really do. We keep having to reshuffle book space because I’m so good at understanding. I agree that nothing quite replaces the smell of an old book, or the texture of turning a page, or the happy weight of a book in your hand. There’s never going to be technology that can replicate the wonderfully interactive side of paper books, and I am the first person to agree with that.
But that’s not all that needs to be considered.
For many people, books can be difficult to access and handle. People can be stuck inside the house, or have health that leaves them only able to leave sporadically. Vision can be a major barrier, as can physical ability to hold and support the weight of a book. Financially, ebooks are cheaper the large majority of the time as they do not involve printing costs. They can be bought from home, from hospital, from wherever there is internet access, and they can be read instantly, without waiting for leaving the house or delivery. As for e-readers, they are a lot easier to stick in your bag; there’s little additional weight, and no risk of damaging your book (which is honestly always a major concern of mine). You can carry thousands of books around with you on one device, from the shortest book to things like “War and Peace”, and there’s no change to how much it weighs. E-readers simply are convenient.
When Kindle first became popular, there was a big outcry about it replacing books, and the horror of there never being a generation that handled books, etc etc. Well all of that is clearly nonsense. If anything, latest statistics have shown the sales of physical books have grown in recent years. And whilst I understand the emotive connection to books, and to wanting your children’s children’s children to read “The Secret Garden” the same way you did, not only is it not your business how someone else reads, but it’s also not your business how someone else reads.
Wanting people to carry on reading I completely support, but yelling at them (in person or via social media) that they are contributing to the decline of society is certainly not going to gain any sympathy for your cause.
Not only is it classist and ableist, the worst thing is that it’s closed minded, and that is one of the things we readers generally all have in common to want to improve upon.
So if someone happens to tell you they are reading on a Kindle, rather than telling them it’s “not really reading” or “it’s not the same”, just ask them what they’re reading. I’ve mentioned in my piece on audiobooks that reading is reading is reading, and that remains a firm fact. As long as someone is reading, surely we should just be glad that word and being taken in? If someone who couldn’t previously cope with a book can now devour them at a speedy rate, that’s cause for celebration, is it not?
Sometimes other people’s lives, problems, preferences and needs are different to our own, and the best thing we can do to help all aspects of society is to respect that.