My relationship with eBooks ebbs and it flows. One day I hate them and the next day I need them. Back in April of 2010 I expressed my love and loathing (mostly the latter) of eBooks. It’s been almost a year and since then, a few things have changed.
Early January I signed on to participate in the 52Poetry Challenge via Twitter. With this, you read one book of poetry every a week for the year; hence, the fifty two. As such, I was also participating in a Twitter discussion group of the recently released Lighthead by Terrance Hayes (#Lighthead) of which I volunteered to be the leader. The only problem was that I hadn’t yet received my copy of the book which I’d ordered from Amazon and the discussion was set to start in just a day. It wasn’t a major, major problem considering I wasn’t a discussion leader for a class assignment. But I’d made the commitment and I looked at it as another step in certifying my writer-self.
Anyhow, the moral and point of the above short story is that since the hardcopy copy (is that right?) that I ordered from Amazon hadn’t yet arrived, since the Library didn’t own a copy, since it was too late to try and order it through Interlibrary Loan, I had only one (maybe two) option: try to buy the eBook or step down as the discussion leader. And I’m sure you’ve already gleaned that I was not going to quit my post!
Because I’d received two Barnes and Noble gift cards (one as a graduation gift and one as a Christmas gift) in December, I went straight to barnesandnoble.com on my iPhone. I searched and perused, and found exactly what I was looking for.
(Let me back up just a moment—my iPhone 4 already had both the iBook and Kindle applications downloaded. I only chose NOOK because I had $40+ in gift cards for Barnes and Noble.)
I ended up spending the $9.99 for the NOOKBook and the $12.35+ for the hardcopy via Amazon. But again, I didn’t want to not participate in the Twitter discussion as the group leader. So yes, I wound up with two copies of the same book.
My mantra is no longer Down With the eBook. It’s Up With Cohabitation. While I do love, love, love to jot in the margins, and highlight passages and lines, the convenience of the eBook is undeniable. It has saved my hide in many a bind while in graduate school. The same situation that I found myself in with Lighthead has happened in several different literature courses. I’d buy a book online from Amazon or order it via Interlibrary Loan, but would end up (because I needed to read a chapter ASAP) on Google Books because I needed instant access.
I do still think that the physical book is being weeded out as I pointed out last April. And that point is not up for debate, really. But the other significant argument—that people are going to read less—is a true falsehood. The amount of reading material will, I think, increase. It is increasing; it has increased. With the advent of the Internet, we are inundated with massive amounts of stuff to read. The issue isn’t that people will not read anymore. The issue is that people are reading massive amounts of unvetted material. Fact-checkless and not peer-reviewed content—these are the problems that ought be focused on.
[Insert your local librarian here.]
They have, after all, the necessary training and wherewithal to help you differentiate between a credible source and everything else.
I will always stand for the real book, I think. But I also think it is necessary, in an effort to stay relevant and up-to-date, to familiarize yourself with trends as they develop. You have to either get with the times or get lost and left behind. Many of the students, faculty, and staff who come to the Service Desk will ask if the book or journal they are looking for is available electronically. If it’s not the first question, it’s the second. They are studying for a test as they travel home. They want to have access to NCLEX study questions while on the beach. Medical terminology texts that can fit on their hip, in their purse or pocket. I’d again be remiss to not know how these eBooks worked with smart devices.
It is easier and convenient, finally, to carry my iPhone loaded with books of poetry instead of eight (8) separate books. Still, though, I would prefer to carry both my device and my books. One is only made better by the other.