Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Move to e-books

Anyone who has known me long enough will know that I love books. Whether it's fiction or fact based, I love the physical medium that books provide. New books have a great smell and crispness about them. Old books often encapsulate their history within their very pages, whether in the form of turned pages, broken spines (something I hate!), stains or something else entirely. And if you return to an old book that you haven't read for years, these imperfections can often stir memories of times past, offering additional value than just reading the text (my copy of To Kill A Mockingbird is just such a book and each time I read it it's like seeing an old friend again.)

Over the years I've collected hundreds of books, ranging from fantasy, science fiction, classics and of course work related. And rarely have I discarded a book. So as I grew up it became harder and harder to get them all out of the boxes in which they often ended up. Then I met my wife who has just as much a passion for books as well as being a collector too. So something had to give.

Several years ago I converted an old HP Jornada to an ebook reader for her and she took to it. The convenience of the form factor, the ability to store hundreds of books on flash memory and the fact that she could get books instantly, sold it to her. I, however, remained unconvinced. The price difference between the physical copy and the electronic copy annoyed me and still does. And I still love the tactile aspect of a real book. Then my wife upgraded to a Sony reader with e-ink and she really fell in love with the format. Though she still buys physical copies of select books, the vast majority of the books she gets today are e-books.

Throughout this I have remained resolutely against moving. As I said, I love the old style format and don't think e-books are the same, no matter how good the technology gets. However, it is the reality of family life coupled with the masses of books we possess that is pushing me towards the electronic versions, at least in a limited way. I'm going to give it a go for selected books: those for which I won't necessarily build emotional ties. But I reserve the right to be disappointed in losing something in the transition and I may go back eventually. Finally, I find it interesting that given my background in computing and adoption of new technologies, I can't get over the hurdle of migrating to e-books. Maybe this is similar to the vinyl versus CD debate of two decades ago?

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