Ebooks vs paperbacks

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By Melissa Puli

One question that has been increasingly asked of book lovers lately is do you prefer ebooks or ‘real’ books. When I use the term ‘real’ books, I’m referring to those made of paper bound together and secured with a wonderful cover and blurb on the back. ♥

I have to admit ‘real’ books are my absolute favourite way to read. Yes, I have a fancy Kindle which can do everything from store my books, help me Google my way to new books and of course a ton of other handy little pathways to the world beyond my doorstep. But for me, it’s not quite the same as holding a book in my hands.

Since I was a young child, I was surrounded by books. Trips to the local library are fond memories where I would scan the shelves searching for the perfect book. I have now instilled this passion and adventure into my own children and always look with amazement as they search the shelves in the hope of finding their own perfect read.

As an adult with a family made up of two little humans and a husband, I am surrounded by books. My favourite place in our home is in the lounge where I can see my books on our handmade bookshelf of timber and bricks. My prized posessions on those shelves include a first-edition Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams by Sylvia Plath to my full collection of Jodie Picoult novels. Adorning the shelves are my childhood books of Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven and The Famous Five; my all-time favourite chick lit books and of course no bookshelf is complete without the full set of Harry Potter!

Books are my passion and my love. Real books which I can hold. When it comes to reading books on my Kindle, I sometimes have a disconnect to the novel itself. I don’t feel as though I am truly engaging in what has been written. That’s not saying I have not read some amazing ebooks, but I wonder, would I have fallen more in love with the storyline had they been a ‘real’ book?

My opinion is just one of many in the ongoing debate about ebooks versus paperbacks. Take husband and wife team, Serena and Jim.

Jim says:

“I was a paperback snob who wouldn’t consider using ebooks. I now have a Kindle and I love it. It is lighter and easier to hold when lying down than a book. I can now take hundreds of books with me without taking up half a suitcase. Books are cheaper in ebook form and I can still share with friends that have e-readers.”

But Serena says:

“I, on the other hand, am a complete book person. I love the feel and smell of a book and it’s a relaxation tool for me. I love nothing more than sitting in my corner chair with my reading light with a good book and, to me, an e-reader is not the same. Feels too much like work. I love nothing more than strolling through bookshops picking up the latest releases or strolling through a library. It’s not the same downloading something from iTunes or Amazon.”

One household – two opposing views.

I can agree when it comes to books taking up half a suitcase when travelling … between my crochet and books, there isn’t a great deal of room for anything else! But I love nothing more than snuggling down on the couch, book in hand, on a cosy winter evening. And it is true that real books have a certain smell to them!

I will admit, the versatility and ease of ebooks is great. You can switch from reading one book to another with a swipe of the finger. And if, like me, you are constantly interrupted by little humans, the Kindle has an efficient way of book marking your last stop on the page.

As ebooks and self-publishing becomes a popular avenue for authors, I worry about the future of our book printing industry. I want my children to pick up a book and read the pages and see the illustrations. I want them to wonder at the magic of books and the joy they can bring into their lives. My kids spend enough time on technology and any time away from them is always a good thing.

Story Mama is one of my favourite places to source books for my little humans. Owner Deb Hatswell is a lover of chick lit, thrillers, historical fiction and bestseller titles.

Deb said:

“We made a strategic decision in relation to Story Mama to start off just with physical picture books, although the site has the capability to take ebooks at a later date. We wanted to promote the reading aloud to a child experience and to get kids engaged in reading, which I think still requires a physical book they can chew on, turn the page or lift-a-flap. Children’s picture books primarily are still purchased in greater numbers in their physical form, and I think that will continue as parents will always want to read a bedtime story to their child which doesn’t require charging, and also when you are giving a gift to a very young child you are unlikely to consider an ebook.”

Strictly old school, Deb likes a physical book with pages she can turn and dog ear; that she can throw in her handbag or pile up on her bedside table. Deb likes to be able to lend a book to a friend, and often goes back and re-read them. Having said that, Deb is a big fan of blogs and business-related ebooks – which she prints… so she can underline the important bits and refer to them later.

“In the kids section of Story Mama, particularly for very young kids we need to have board books (very practical, heavy duty and hard wearing) and hardcover (beautiful gifts to keep!). As a mum, I also purchase ebooks or book-related apps for my four-year-old, although I am very careful that they are published by reputable publishers and that they are a paid item because I HATE in-app purchases. I try to buy e-books of titles I am already familiar with where the bells and whistles do not distract too much from the story. A particular favourite book app publisher is Nosy Crow. I also love Sandra Boynton’s e-books like Moo Baa, La, La, La.

Electronic books have their time and place, they are a great distraction when you just need to keep little hands busy for a couple of moments and I do think they have a learning element, even if that’s just learning to use and handle safely an electronic device.

I will always have a packed bookshelf full of picture books for my child, and bed-time stories will always be an actual book (or five!). I love that my son now picks up stories himself and often talks about things which have happened in them. I can see that reading him stories daily is having an impact on his literacy.”

Deb believes there is a place in the world for both electronic books and printed books. She can see ebooks make sense for travelling or lack of storage as well as knowing there will always be people who prefer a physical book. Deb continues to say she thinks the world and the book industry is reaching a happy medium where there is a format for everyone depending on preference. She doesn’t think the ebook is the end of the ‘real’ book as some first predicted and that ebooks have made it easier for people to consider self-publishing which she believes is really interesting (and brave!)

I agree wholeheartedly with Deb who says,

“Kids are more drawn to a physical book they can pick up, carry around, and read over and over. Ebooks can sometimes have a novelty factor, but they don’t get “loved” the same way a favourite storybook does. And I doubt when a child grows up they will remember an ebook like an old friend the way people respond to books they remember from childhood.”

Whether you choose an ebook and printed book is a personal preference. Whichever format you choose to read, as long as the words can take you away to another place, another time – it’s a good book!

Living in Melbourne with two little humans certainly has its moments. Melissa Puli escapes the mundane by writing for twolittlehumansandme.com, crocheting and of course reading and reviewing books. With a passion for all things literature, she can get swept away in the storyline only to be jolted back by a little hand tugging at her to ask for a snack or a drink.


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