On owning an e-reader

So I’ve had the Kindle for a couple of months now. I didn’t really know how I’d take to it but figured it would be useful for travelling. Already I find that I am doing about half of my reading on it. But what’s it actually like?

Bookses old and new

I genuinely like reading on the Kindle. The e-ink screen is just as comfortable as paper on my eyes, it’s light and easy to hold in one hand, so it’s kind on my joints, and I like being able to highlight or annotate passages as I read without worrying about whether it counts as defacing a book!

So am I a complete convert? Well, not quite. I still have an emotional attachment to physical books. Now, whether that’s just because I like them as objects to own, or whether there’s more to it, I’m honestly not sure. I definitely love my library, filled with books I have read and loved, with little collections by favourite authors. I like to look at those shelves and remember reading each of those titles. I appreciate a well-made book – a hardback with designed endpapers, head and tail bands and cloth cover (such as anything made by the Folio Society) is a truly beautiful thing. But I also have many a cheap paperback that I hold dear.

On the negative side of ebooks, there’s the DRM/ownership issue. Strictly, you are long-term renting most digital products rather than buying permanent ownership. I figure once I’ve paid for a book I should have the right to lend it to my friends, leave it to my children or give it away to a library or charity shop. I know this is still being figured out and everyone seems to have just accepted the switch in music, but I’m just not convinced. I mean, when I meet my favourite authors what will I get them to sign?

And let’s not forget bookshops. I love going to physical bookshops, and while I don’t think Amazon is entirely evil, I would prefer not to be completely limited to buying from them. So maybe an e-reader other than a Kindle is the solution, as the whole epub versus mobi thing does mean with any other e-reader I could at least buy from other digital vendors, and apparently a growing number of US bookshops are selling ebooks in store (they upload the book to a cloud account) so hopefully UK bookshops will follow suit.

So for now I’m largely downloading free ebooks from Project Gutenberg and continuing to buy physical books. But I really do like reading on the Kindle, so maybe that will change in time.

Do you use an e-reader? Have you tried a few different ones? Let me know your thoughts!