October is School Library Month, and to celebrate and raise awareness MyVoucherCodes has asked me to write about my thoughts on eBooks.
I remember when people first started getting eReaders and eBooks became a big thing. Today, they're a pretty normal part of every day life for readers - whether you like them or not, it's not something that's uncommon any more. But when eReaders first became the new gadget to have, I was pretty appalled. Did we really need to have them? What was so wrong with physical books? Nothing! As far as I was concerned, to steal a line from J.K. Rowling's Umbridge, it was "progress for progress's sake", a way for all the big companies in publishing to make more money, rather than to fix something.
Now, I own a Kindle, and although I might not use it too often, and still much prefer physical books, I have come round to the idea of eBooks. I originally bought my Kindle because authors were having short stories published as eBooks only. I hate reading books on my computer, so if I wanted to read these stories, I had to get an eReader. And once I had one and discovered the use of NetGalley, it became much easier to access certain books for review, especially from a few American publishers, whose review copies I wouldn't have access to otherwise.
I have come to like eBooks. I find I read quite a lot faster when reading from my Kindle, and having a number of books all ready to start if I happen to finish a book while I'm out is so helpful. It also makes my bag weigh much less than physical books do.
And I think it's this last point, among others, that makes eBooks so brilliant when it comes to those still in education, whether it be at school, college or university. I don't know how common it is, but when my cousin was at school, her English class was given an eReader for the year, loaded up with all their texts they would be studying. Can you imagine if this was done for every class, for every textbook? I'm sure it might end up costing schools a fortune in buying that many eReaders, but I think it would make such a difference. My school didn't have lockers, and when I was in Year 8, one day a week I would have to bring a textbook for each of my six classes with me, as well as my exercise books, and my bag was so heavy. If I just had to bring an eReader, it would have been so much better. And when it comes to making notes on the text, there wouldn't be any defacing physical books, but eReaders have the function to make notes! There is the downside that if you forgot your eReader, you wouldn't have the texts or textbooks for any of your classes, but I think, for the students, there are more pros than cons. I think it would be pretty awesome if this is something that could happen in all schools, I think it would be such a benefit. As to how it would work for school libraries, I'm not sure, but there are systems where libraries allow readers to borrow eBooks, so I'm sure it's something that's possible for school libraries, too.
But I still wouldn't want eBooks to take over physical books completely - in school libraries or out of them. There is nothing quite like reading a physical book; I think there's something a bit more personal about the reading experience when you're holding the physical book in your hands, the weight of it, the act of turning a page rather than pressing a button, hurriedly trying to find out what happens next. And lets not forget that a bookcase full of books is actually really gorgeous to look at. As decoration and ornaments, an eBook is never going to top a physical book. And buying someone a physical book as a present is such a lovely thing. Books make great gifts, but it's harder to gift an eBook; you can't wrap up an eBook, and if you're buying for someone with a Kindle, in the UK there's no facility yet to gift eBooks. This is a nightmare for me when it comes to my dad, because he won't read anything but eBooks now.
In my opinion, we're living in a world where there is a place for both eBooks and physical books. I think we are probably better off with eBooks than without (especially if you're a fan of/are an indie author - imagine all the books that may not have been published at all, if it wasn't for eBooks giving indie authors a way to get their books out there easily), but I wouldn't do without physical books. Really, love them or hate them, eBooks and eReaders are here to stay. And I think that's a good thing.
How about you? What do you think about eBooks? Would you prefer a world without, or have you not looked back since you started reading them?