Monday, October 04, 2010

Why I Hate Ebooks

I’m a politically progressive individual. I’m open to new ideas and I embrace free thought. But I catch a lot of grief—mainly from other writers—because I don’t like ebooks. I don’t even like the very concept of ebooks.

Often, I’m asked why that is.

At first, I couldn’t say. All I could admit was that I was still wrapped up in the idea of a physical book made of paper and glue and stitching. I just didn’t want a book that was composed of pixels on a screen. I’d tried to read fiction on my computer and it just didn’t work. In a few cases I would end up printing a hard copy just so I could finish reading some work of fiction I’d started reading via the Internet. On a purely basic level I find myself unable (or unwilling) to read fiction on a video screen.

In addition, I had stopped reading newspapers and had begun getting virtually all of my current events updates via the Internet, reading voraciously from my computer screen. Why couldn’t I do the same with books? I had to think about that.

And I realized that I had abandoned newspapers not because I found the reading of news on a video screen to be superior, but because I had always known that newspapers merely regurgitated right wing, pro-corporate propaganda and I’d subsequently discovered Internet sources who actually reported news without it being passed through a biased filter. For the first time in my life I was able to read what was really happening in the world.

If newspapers had ever been really honest I’d still be reading them. But American newspapers are just an arm of the pro-elite media who control the so-called news that citizens of the USA are allowed to see. This is the reason I also stopped watching American television. I just got tired of the lies.

I have no such problem with books. I can go into a bookstore—whether it’s an independent bookseller or a chain superstore—and I have no problem at all in finding fiction, prose, poetry, history, current events, etc. that I feel provide reading pleasure. I don’t have to resort to a video screen to be able to read something in that format. As long as there are books I know that I can find something that I want to read. On that level alone, you can keep your video terminals and ebook contraptions.

As an author, I see these various formats—Kindle, Ipad, Nook, ad nauseum—and I feel as if I’ve missed the boat. Finally, after many years of trying, I see my work in print, and the very format that I love and which I’ve longed to see with my byline is in danger. I want to see my novels and short stories on a bookshelf, not in a computer file stored surreptitiously on an electronic device. That’s a selfish reason, yes, but one which I have to admit.

Ebooks will, if they become the norm, prove to be the end of bookstores. I don’t even have to argue that one. Who wants to live in a world devoid of bookstores and libraries? I certainly don’t. These places have always been the breeding grounds of innovation and freedom. If you don’t have bookstores, what kind of a society are you? I don’t want to live in such a place.

Finally, the format screams piracy. If one’s book is reduced to digits and spewed along the Information Super-highway, then it’s going to be stolen. It’s going to be stolen at will. The author whose sweat and struggles have gone into the creation of his work will see it taken from him, with no way to receive payment. You can keep your ebook formats—the hacker is chomping at the bit to steal anything and everything you create.

I don’t like ebooks. I may find myself one day with a Kindle or Ipad in my possession, but for now I’m taking an admittedly Luddite stand against them on a purely personal basis. I don’t want one and I currently don’t want to even use one.

Here's a guy holding out against so-called "progress".


Jack said...

Well Said! I have no desire to ever read a book on one of those devices either!

HemlockMan said...

I keep hoping that it's a passing fad, but I fear that isn't so.

David said...

You are so right. I bought a Kindle a couple of months back & have read about half a dozen books on it. Its nice to be able to access so many out of copyright (many also out of print) books free from Project Gutenberg & I'll continue using it for that.....but

There is something essentially 'fake', essentially shallow, about the experience of reading an ebook. All books on the Kindle 'feel' the same - same font, same look, all on the same size screen. And when you finish the book there's no real sense of 'completion', no closing the book & sitting there holding it, maybe flicking back through the pages, deciding whether you're going to keep it or pass it on. No finding that place on the shelf where it can sit as a reminder of the experience. It just ends & you press the 'Home' button & it becomes a file title on the screen. Yes, you can have all your 'books' on one little device which you can slip into your pocket, but its ultimately fake - they've stripped out all the physical stuff - the paper, glue, cover, the work that's gone into choosing the font, the text size, line spacing - everything that has gone to make a book, the great symbol of our culture. All reduced to a 'cheap' plastic device which needs power to make the words accessible, & which if dropped (& let's not forget its a lovely target for thieves)would be simply useless - everything lost until you shelled out for another one.

I have books which I bought 30 odd years ago & which I can take down from the shelf & enjoy. I wonder if I'd be able to do that with ebooks in 30 years (if I'm spared)? Certainly not on my current Kindle.

HemlockMan said...

I agree completely.