The convenience of e-books

I’ll continue directly where I left in the last post where I described my transition to e-books. First thing that needs to be mentioned is that I like travelling, and I consider it very convenient to use public transport, just as I understand it might not be so appealing elsewhere in the world.

So, I like travelling (mainly hiking) and I like reading fantasy. The result is that I call myself “train reader” – majority of the books I started reading were started aboard a train or bus while travelling to the hills. While I also like to observe the landscape, I know most of it very well and so I only look out of the window if it’s in place undergoing some changes (station reconstruction, highway construction or something).

Which is where the convenience of e-books kicks in. Taking a small paperback book (300-ish pages) is not a big deal. But can you imagine making space for something much larger, when the backpack is often around 10 kg in summer (especially when my own weight is barely 60 kg)? I don’t think so.

E-reader is light and takes much less space, which further adds convenience. And I don’t need to carry a bookmark with myself, let alone fear losing it. And the best part? I carry a small (for now) library with me, so I am not limited to one book, or can go on to another if I finish one. Going for longer holiday with printed book would mean choosing one piece carefully. E-reader means choosing on the spot based on my mood. And if I am in reach of wireless connection, I can expand my library on the spot.


David Gaughran, who gives advices to aspiring writers, says that two main advantages of e-books are convenience and price. While price is something that goes case by case, convenience is where e-books won me over easily. Even if the e-book costs the same as print version, you can get it any time within few seconds, as long as you can connect to the internet, which alone cuts time and money travelling to the bookstore. But that’s still not the main part.

Dictionary

One of the biggest things I see in e-readers is the fact that they can have useful tools. Not understanding a word, or not being sure? Just tap it, and I get it explained, with optional wikipedia definition if connected to the internet. Even though my English is very good, I sometimes come across a word I don’t know. This is great help.

Notes and highlights

Highlighting in a physical books is most likely barbaric. E-books allow that with no damage to the book itself and allow you to see which parts were highlighted by other readers. Goodreads now support that, with the ability to add notes to your highlights. Want to discuss a bad-ass line of a character? Easy!

Go on to the sequel

Most books that have sequels will have direct link to it, allowing you to continue easily. Or direct you to getting the next book if you don’t have it already.

Recommendations

Okay, I know this might be controversial, that there will be people saying that big bad Amazon can use that to spy on people and whatever. But both Amazon and Goodreads will try to recommend you something to read next based on your purchase (Amazon) or reading (Goodreads) history. There are still some hits and misses and I’ll probably go into detailed thoughts about this in some other posts.

You can’t damage an e-book

Probably the most convenient part. You can damage the e-reader, but not the e-book itself. Buying an e-book, as far as I know, gives you license tied to your account, not a specific device.

Ecology

Manufacturing paper requires lots of water and unless fully recycled, some dead trees as well, but the biggest problem is the transportation and storage. Yes, electronics have some impact, especially due to metals used fo semiconductors, and this means e-readers as well. Still, storing 3 MB file on a server with capacity of several TB is probably less dependant than a book in large warehouse. E-reader battery can last for month and charges in two hours or so. Quite sure one charge of the e-reader causes less environmental strain that printing a single book.

“…more than half of the books that publishers print are returned. Many cannot be sold again at full price and have to be remaindered, or they are tattered or damaged from shipping and end up being pulped.” – David Gaughran, Let’s get digital

Considering that it’s not always easy to guess what people will like, the amount is not that small. I’ll not go into details of that. Thanks to David for letting me see this as I had little ideas about the backstage of publishing, so to say.


I’ll go on in more details about some personal thoughts about e-books in following posts. My thanks to David Gaughran for allowing me to quote him, and for the great insight into the publishing process. I’m likely to mention him in the future again, especially when I get to my thoughts about e-book piracy and self-published work.

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