Finding Middle Ground

by Elizabeth on December 1, 2010 · 12 comments

in books, could be controversial, libraries

In any good argument, there exist two sides both vehemently sure that the other is absolutely, 100% wrong.  Classic examples include Britain versus France, Mac versus PC, and marshmallow versus pecan toppings.  In the past two years or so, a new argument has emerged and both sides are waging a fierce war.  I’m talking about ereaders.

The two camps, the ereader-lovers and the ereader-haters, both make excellent points.  Ereaders provide portability (who wouldn’t want to download a new book minutes before a long flight?), flexibility (the idea of bringing along a whole bookshelf of books in one small, lightweight device is thrilling to an avid reader), and a whole new set of books designed only for an ereader.

The haters are screaming about losing the physical book and its history, losing the smell and feel of a book in your hands, and losing the physical library or the physical bookshelf which gives so many people (myself included) happy, tingly feelings.

Clearly, the battle lines have been drawn.

Where am I amidst this passionate book lovers’ war?  I’m searching for middle ground.

I love books.  For my upcoming birthday (yikes…), my best friend made me a beautiful bookmark that proclaims me to be a bibliophile.  I accept that title proudly.  Not only am I a lover of books, I am a collector of books.  My favorite quote by Erasmus sums up my devotion: “When I have a little money I buy books…if any left over, I buy food and clothes”.  I fit this description perfectly; I bet if I added up the amount of money I’ve spent this year at Barnes and Noble and Amazon, on shipping for PaperBackSwap (got to ship books to get credits!), and at the used bookstore, it would be quite a bit more than what I spent on clothes.  I have three bookcases full of books; romances, general fiction, cookbooks, childhood books, I make no distinction in  the type of book I choose to save and what I sell or trade.  The only requirement to land it on my keeper shelf (er…shelves) is that I have or will read it at least twice.

My book hoarding tendencies make ebooks very appealing.  One, ebooks tend to be cheaper (on some things, not everything) so I wouldn’t be spending as much as I do know.  Two, I love the idea of being able to download a book right then, right when I find it.  I hate reading a review at work, then either having to check to see if the library has it and put it on reserve, order it from PaperBackSwap, or try to find it at a real bookstore (I use online book shopping as a last resort).  It takes some work and if it’s something new, I’m pretty much guaranteed to only be able to buy it so why not by it ebook form?  And three, there are some really good books (especially romances) out there only being published as ebooks.  I would very much like to read them on something other than my computer or my phone.

So, overall, ebooks seem like a great option for someone like me.  I should very firmly be on ebook-loving side of the war, right?  WRONG!

I’m still somewhere in the middle, probably screaming for someone to come rescue me at this point.

Why am I still in the middle?  Because some books are not meant to be read as an ebook.  Sometimes it is necessary (at least for this book hoarder) to have a copy (preferably a hardback copy, complete with dust jacket, if it comes that way) on the bookshelf.  Many books have sensory memories for me, and I wouldn’t trade the smell and feel of Deathly Hallows in my hands for anything.  I have certain books that I will never buy for my ereader.  Nora Roberts, certain Loretta Chase books, any YA fantasy series that requires me to read every book, in order, at least once a year (Harry Potter, Twilight, Narnia, The Hunger Games, you get the picture), and anything that continues or completes a series that I already have in print.

Just because I’ll soon be joining those with ereaders doesn’t mean I’ll be giving up the library.  I still plan to check out physical books, especially those that I want to read but have no intentions of ever reading again, and with the right ereader, I can also check out ebooks, which I find incredibly appealing.

So here I am, firmly in the middle.  With the ereader Santa is bringing me for Christmas, I will be happily buying new books, but I will never forgo my lovely library and my much loved print books.  Sometimes a girl just needs a book to hold to make it all better.

What camp are you in?  Or are you in the middle like me?

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jobless Librarian December 1, 2010 at 7:42 pm

When it comes to ereaders, I'm still not sure how I feel. I have friends who are avid readers and absolutely love the portability and convenience of their ereaders. Although I understand where they're coming from, I don't know if I can give up the feel and smell of the physical book. Maybe if (when?) I finally give in and purchase an ereader, I'll see things differently.


2 Elizabeth December 1, 2010 at 8:37 pm

I know I can never totally give up a physical book; I like the way they feel in my hands, but I think the benefits (portability, convenience, ease of access) outweigh my bookshelves collapsing under the weight of too many books.

By the way, I really like your blog; I think we have lots in common! I hope you find a job soon and congrats on being an emerging leader.


3 Genifer December 1, 2010 at 9:19 pm

I just bought a Kindle simply because I travel a lot and cannot spare the luggage space to haul all the books I want. Plus, I need to read pdf's and other materials in a portable format.

I love books and have a rather extensive collection that will never be replaced with digital but will be duplicated as time goes on. However, there are some books that I don't care if I own a hard copy of–i.e. political polemics, some novels, etc., that I will probably buy digital only.

So, I think the middle ground is a great place to be for all book lovers.


4 Christine December 1, 2010 at 9:46 pm

i'm right there with you in the middle. i haven't bought (or requested) an ereader yet just because i feel like i'm cheating on my books. but i've been learning that some book are in face cheaper on an ereader. though some books i will always buy a paper copy of, i think an ereader may be in my future….


5 Reeni December 2, 2010 at 1:39 am

I'm not in the middle yet! I'm still buying books – mostly used – and have no plans to get a reader. If and when I do I will still collect books! Part of the fun for me is shopping for them!


6 Colean December 2, 2010 at 4:52 am

I love reading and I love books! I would be tempted by an ereader if the books weren't so expensive. For the same price as a paperback, I want it tangibly in my hand. Until the prices come down on ebooks, I'm going to be firmly on the side of the ereader-hater.

Part of this comes from the fact, that like you and given the opportunity, I would spend far too much money on books. I was pushing a $100-300 a month book habit before my husband and I decided that money could be better spent on other things if I entered into a committed relationship with my local library.


7 Blubrrymffin December 2, 2010 at 2:27 pm

I am firmly in the e-reader camp. I love the fact I can get books faster and cheaper. I use my local library and the agency library for most of my nonfiction needs, but when it comes to new fiction, I love getting books on my e-reader. I even started carrying larger purses just so my e-reader fit into my bag and I could take it with me all the time. Plus, I love that I can bookmark pages or highlight sections and then come back to the book and restart reading it wherever I am/was. At least I do not lose my bookmarks all the time like I did with normal books.

That all said, there are a few authors that I will always buy whenever they release a new book. Mainly my reason for this is because I have the rest of their series and would not like my collection to be lacking.

But for now, I am an e-reader supporter.


8 Cate December 2, 2010 at 2:28 pm

I'm in the middle!

I'm a diehard physical book lover. I love the feel, the smell, the heft of a real book. I love jacket art, and the way books lining my bookshelves bring a nice pop of color into my house. I love using the library.

I like the idea of an ereader, but they're so expensive! If I had more money, or traveled more, or both, I would probably get one. But I don't, on either count. So for now I'm sticking with the library and books from PaperbackSwap. 🙂


9 Elizabeth December 2, 2010 at 9:58 pm

The price of an ereader is daunting, as many of you have said. I asked for a Nook for Christmas from my parents, and that's about all I'm getting (well that, and a dutch oven, but that's almost a necessity).

Colean mentioned the price of ebooks and how the paperback price tends to be the same. It is in some cases, and not in others. Many paperbacks, especially from new, or not well known authors, can be as low as $.99 and sometimes free. I'm mostly getting an ereader to feed my romance habit, and there are a lot of authors publishing ebooks and selling them for low prices. I also love that hardbacks are cheaper. Some of my favorite authors only publish in hardback, and I can't justify paying $25 for a book, but I don't want to wait for it to come into the library or go in the bargain bin. In that case an ereader will be very handy.

But like all of you said, nothing beats the feel (and the smell!) of a physical book your hands. I'm so glad y'all share my sentiments on that front!


10 Jess December 3, 2010 at 12:57 am

I just bought a Nook over the holiday and I love it, but I don't see myself getting rid of my paper books any time soon, and if there's a book I truly love, I suspect that I'll probably end up buying it in paper so that I have a copy *forever.*

I'm also pretty sure that I'll still be checking books out for the library for those titles that I want to read, but aren't worth the price for an e version, even at the lower prices than the paper version.

I've not yet met anyone who feels like there's a print vs. e-book war going on, but I hang out with a lot of librarians/readers who understand the benefits and costs of both media.


11 Cyn December 3, 2010 at 2:46 am

I'm an optimist.

I like the portability, but as you said, both have their pros and cons. And honestly, if we're talking cookbooks then both mediums hold up poorly to a splashing of grease.

Personally, I may invest in an iPad just because I prefer a more powerful and versatile device. I feel that it is more important to acknowledge the eReader as one of the next big trends in librarianship. I don't see print books going anywhere soon, but I do see ways to use eReaders to better meet patron needs as well as a way to stretch budgets (depending on the relevancy to the demographic served).

Let's put it this way- videos were replaced by DVDs, which are sloooooowly being pushed out by Bluray. It's all down to quality and features. The Internet, search engines, and databases help to supplement research that was once primarily done by book. I remember the outcry that Google would be the end of us, and I do believe that it has forced us to become more highly-trained at finding and disseminating information. However, I think eBooks and eReaders will join the camp of the latter, enhancing as opposed to replacing the collection.


12 Jobless Librarian December 3, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Thank you! Congrats to you too on finding a job. It does seem that we have a great deal in common. 🙂


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