I bought my first ebook recently. I have downloaded a few free ebooks but I’d never actually bought one before. I found it quite a different experience for three reasons. Firstly, how does one browse an online website? Rather than just wonder aimlessly around a book store hoping something will leap out and grab my attention, which is usually what happens, I had to actually put something in the search bar – an author, a title, a subject, a something. Then I realized that I couldn’t do what I normally do, which is, read the back cover, the endorsements, the contents page, flip through and read any side bars, the first paragraph, maybe even the last page(!). I realized that I thoroughly ‘vet’ a book before I’m prepared to part with my money. This is much harder to do with an ebook and I had to resort to reading book reviews on Google.
Secondly, after I had made the purchase and began reading, I suddenly thought of someone who would love the book and I was struck with a disconcerting thought – how can I lend this book to my friend? Strictly speaking I suppose we are not supposed to lend our print book to our friends because it breaks copyright. But I have lent my books on numerous occasions and it doesn’t seem any different to lending my other possessions. Sometimes part of the enjoyment of reading a book is sharing it with someone you know will love it too.
This lead me to a third thought. One of the things I like to do when I make friends with someone is to browse their bookshelves. I find that people who love books never object to me doing this. When you find someone who loves the books you love there is a connection. You have a shared experience and it create a bond of friendship. It is a lot more difficult to do this with ebooks.
I don’t mind reading electronic text and I enjoyed the books I bought. However I didn’t enjoy the experience of buying or keeping an ebook. It is an interesting dilemma and perhaps adds to why I think print books will be us for quite a long time yet.