My first ebook reader was a Rocket eBook. It must have been, oh, 1999 or 2000 or thereabouts. The Rocket eBook was a giant, chunky and heavy thing, and it was absolutely wonderful. It was also incredibly sturdy – I used it intensively for almost a decade, dropped it repeatedly, and lugged it along on every trip and vacation. I might still be using it today if it hadn’t stopped being compatible with my PC. It still worked fine at that point – the battery life had shortened and it was a bit battered, but that was all.
Nobody I knew had ever heard of an ebook reader when I first got the Rocket. Reading it in public was a sure way to start a conversation.
Go back a few more years before the Rocket.
When I was young, I would finish a good book and reluctantly emerge back into the Real World, longing for the next book. If only there were some way to have a single book that would magically change to be whatever book I wanted to read, without lengthy delays for ordering the sequel, waiting for it to be shipped, picking it up after weeks or months…
I pictured this magical book as an actual book with blank pages that would fill up with new text, and that came in different formats (small paperback, large paperback, comic book, …). I never, ever expected that this wish would one day come true. And yet, it has. My reading miracle is here, and it is called the ebook.
So, yes: I am a huge fan of ebooks.
I am also a huge fan of the printed book. For me, there is something wonderfully material and real to paper books. I love the way they look and feel. You can hold them in your hands, stack them next to your bed, leaf through them… and you can put them on your shelf, like fictional worlds just waiting for you, worlds you can return to whenever you please.
It feels wonderful to be surrounded by printed books in my living space. To me, they are like the physical manifestation of fictional worlds and characters I love; memories, promises and possibilities. I love old books for their history and beauty, too, and printed non-fiction books for more practical reasons.
I can’t imagine loving one form of books less because of the other. I want to have them both.
I don’t think that ebooks are a threat to the printed page, or will replace printed books in the long run. I’m certain printed books and ebooks will coexist in perfect harmony. I’m extrapolating from my own feelings on the issue, of course, but while I’m sure some readers will read only paper books or only ebooks, most – I can’t help but assume – will want to have both.