I love books. Paper ones, but also ebooks. Some people adore paper books and loathe ebooks. They like to hold them, feel them and smell them and they miss all that with ebooks. I’m not one of them. I like them both and I’ll explain why I love ebooks.
1. Go with the flow
At the heart of every ebook is the ebook format. The worldwide standard is ePUB and one of the best features of ePUB is that it’s a reflowable format. ePUB is in fact nothing more than a website in a box with some extra files that make it into a book. One of the great features of websites is that you can view them on every device you use. The text and images flow into the available space and it doesn’t matter if you’re viewing the site on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer.
With ebooks it’s the same. Ebooks are usually quite simple websites in a box, with a lot of text, some images and some simple styling. And you can view them perfectly on your smartphone, tablet, ereader, laptop, or desktop computer. Try that with a pdf document. Have you ever received an email with a pdf and tried to read that on your smartphone? It’s cumbersome. The text is too small. You need to zoom in and scroll continuously to be able to read it. With tablets it’s a bit better, but even then some zooming and scrolling might be necessary to read the text.
2. Automatic bookmarking
The best book is the one that you carry with you. I read my ebooks on my laptop, tablet, smartphone and ereader and I always carry at least one of these devices with me. Sometimes it’s only my smartphone but then I’m still able to read the ebook I was reading earlier. Most ebook platforms synchronise your current location. So when I read a couple of pages at home on my ereader and I pick up that book a couple of hours later while sitting in the train, the ereader software will automatically advance to the latest location. I love that, because it enables me to pick up reading immediately and since I always have my books with me on my smartphone I can always pick up reading wherever I am. Try that with a paper book. Unless you remember to take along that paper book wherever you go, you will find yourself without something to read regularly. Or it might be you took along that one book, but while riding the train you don’t feel like reading that book after all and regret not taking that other book along. I am always reading up to five books at a time and I never have to think about which book I’ll take with me.
3. Size matters
One of the truly great features of ebooks is the ability to resize the font size. My eyes are getting worse and I need reading glasses. No problem with ebooks, I just adjust the font size and that makes reading the ebook so much more enjoyable. I really miss this feature in paper books. Some paper books have such a small font size that I’m not able to read them comfortably anymore and that’s a real turndown for me. Come on, I’m 46 and I don’t want to use a magnifying glass to read that paperback!
4. Instant Previews
I used to have a notebook and when I read something about a great author I jotted his or her name down and when I visited the bookstore a couple of days later I would look for that author to see if it was indeed that interesting. Thanks to Internet I could already read some more about the author in online bookshops and rating sites like goodreads. But nothing beats actually browsing through the book you read about and all ebook platforms have a feature these days called Previews where you can download a preview of the book within seconds and start reading the first couple of pages. I have discovered many books this way and I have a ton of previews on my devices. Sometimes I immediately buy the book after having read the first few pages. It’s a new way of discovering and buying books that’s incredibly rewarding.
5. Digital bookcase
I already said it, the best book is the one you’re carrying with you and with ebooks you’re not only always carrying your book with you, you’re always carrying all your ebooks with you. How incredible is that! Yes, I really enjoy strolling along the bookcases in my home. I have tons of books that I bought over the years, but what good is a bookcase when you feel like reading some while you’re not at home? My digital bookcase is always with me.
6. Favourite passages and annotations
One of my favourite advantages of ebooks is that it’s very easy to mark your favourite passages in ebooks and it’s very simple to add your own comments and notes. I used to have paper notebooks for that. I always carried my notebook around, but when they were full, I bought a new notebook and the old one remained at home. Sometimes I had to scroll through a bunch of old notebooks to find that one quote I was looking for. When was it that I read that book? Hmm. Where did I put that notebook? Hmm. Or where did I put that book? And where was that single quote in this 800 page book? Was it somewhere in the beginning, or at the end? Can’t remember… With ebooks I never have this anymore. I carry all my ebooks and annotations with me and I can find them within seconds. It’s a feature that’s unbeatable by paper books.
7. Nasty, smelly books
I understand the romantics of paper books, but let’s be honest, how many people do actually get a kick out of smelling their books? For fun I took out some of my paper books and I quickly concluded that most of them don’t smell very attractive. Cheap pockets smell of nasty glue and apart from a nice cover page most books are not much too look at. It’s all about the message inside. I still buy paper books, but I’ve noticed that only every now and then do I really appreciate the beauty of them. Also, a significant portion of my library ends up in my bookcase never to be read again. Not all books are made for eternity. Not all books are works of art. And I really don’t mind the lack of physicality with most of them. I like my poetry books in paper, some of my novels, some of my history books, but do I really want to smell the latest Game of Thrones or the newest management book about Lean Startups? No I don’t. I read those books once, enjoy reading them and then I move on. The loss of touch and smell is not an issue at all.
I love paper books and I’ll continue to buy them, but ebooks are here to stay and I have come to love them too. In fact ebooks are quite awesome if you think about it!