Who still reads Ebooks these days?


Some of my own spontaneous contributions to a long Facebook discussion here within the last week are shown below. Some participants in the discussion, other than myself: Christopher Roden, Gary Fry, Douglas Pulker, Jeff VanderMeer, Tom Alaerts, Matt Leyshon and many other Facebook Friends. (The discussion was and still is only viewable by my Facebook Friends.)


Reading is absorbing meaning from the palimpsest of word and paper.

I agree, Ross. But it’s good to have a good old brainstorming session about it. I do feel realbooks are beginning to come back, though.

I agree, Gary, about horses for courses, but realbooks have been with us since the 13th century or longer, and those old friends are being abandoned unless they fight back as they now seem to be doing. They have been wounded by something electronic that is not as good as realbooks for those seeking tangible communion with the text. Eyesight and lightweight convenience and easy availability, notwithstanding, ebooks have, I feel, devalued the value of the author and of the book itself.

Disregarding, for the moment, the effect of ebooks upon the value of and to authors and culture in general, the only real test is an impossible test – to read the same book in Ebook and in realbook format, and compare the experience in isolation from each other.

Some of us on this thread believe it is the case that reading the same text in different formats changes its experience. Our belief is impossible to prove as yours is, Gary.

May Sinclair in the wonderful Ash Tree Press edition is, I feel, a quite different experience from reading them on-line.

http://mic.com/articles/99408/science-has-great-news-for-people-who-read-actual-books (link provided by someone else)

I agree with Matt – there is no intention to wield offensiveness about degrees of intelligence here. It’s an affective thing from object (book or screen) to person. We can all report back on our own individual findings. Mine have been expressed above.

I repeat it’s an affective thing from object to person, nothing to do with ability to scry whatever text is presented in whatever form. Sometimes empiricism proves apparent nonsenses right after all.

Yes, Tom, if the general theory about print as realbook gestalt over ebook tenuity is correct. I love old paperbacks and so forth, as well as Zagava luxury.

Thanks for all that Donald. I am sure others will share such a sensibility. After all, realbooks in one form or another have been in the human DNA for centuries, and the electronic threat of snatching that away is a wrench.

Thanks all for brainstorming with me. I feel less alone than when I had a similar brainstorming 2 or 3 years ago. For me, I hope that is a trend.

“Every book has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.” —from ‘The Shadow Of The Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafon


https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/the-transfiguration-of-an-unchanged-text/ (link to my earlier thoughts on this subject, including my findings regarding paper-based texts throughout my Dreamcatcher Reviews over the years.)

EDIT: Further discussion – http://www.ligotti.net/showthread.php?t=9356


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3 responses to “Who still reads Ebooks these days?

  1. Something I wrote on my blog here in 2011:

    With many publishers and budding publishers increasingly publishing or re-publishing books as Ebooks for Kindles etc., one can visualise the time when everything will be available. With everything available, nothing is available. Well, nothing special, any more.

    Furthermore, there is an accreting ‘culture’ being (inadvertently) encouraged by these publishers of Ebooks – a culture that arguably enables and encourages plagiarism, piracy etc. Also, it is my opinion that real paper books have empirically been the only vehicles able to carry fiction works future-nostalgically and memorably as well as effectively in their hard core emotion and tangibility and handleability.

  2. I agree completely as to the value of realbooks over Ebooks, and I know of no seriously engaged readers who feel differently. That being said, I have a Kindle and deeply appreciate being able to read books that would simply not have become available to me – ever – in realbook form. Some were too rare, some were too expensive, some would increase my collection to a level that, as a renter who has moved often, simply could not be moved or accommodated by the places where I live. My book collecting began long before the Ebook era, and I have many thousands of realbooks. Out of necessity, I’ve culled them many times – and it has always been heartbreaking. I do still buy realbooks, but not as many as I once did and certainly not as casually, since I know they’re likely to find their way eventually to the local hospital book sale. I disagree that the availability of everything has removed the sense of anything being special. Let’s face it: books have always been special to a minuscule number of people, and that is still the case. For those people, I don’t think increased availability makes them any less special. But to get back to the point I lost somewhere in the verbiage, the choice is often not between a realbook and an Ebook, but between an Ebook and no book at all. When that’s my choice (and it often is) I’ll take the Ebook even though the experience of reading it is admittedly a diminished one.

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