Living Between the Lines

Print versus e-book

For some time I have hovered on the fence regarding e-readers versus print. Well, ‘hovered’ may not be quite the correct term. I have always believed and still believe that the hard copy book beats the e-reader hands down.

I mean, what can possibly replace the feel of a good book in one’s hand? What can emulate the pages that waft excitement as you turn them and allow one to breathe in the aroma of crisp print-on-parchment? (I get fanciful now). Furthermore, a hard copy never needs re-charging and sits, tantalizingly inviting, on the bookshelf, begging to be read.

Despite this love of the printed material, I do possess both an iPad and a Kindle. iPad has a nifty way of mimicking the turning of a page but fails to perform outdoors in the sun. In fact, iPad burns up and turns off if exposed to the heat of the sun, British or otherwise. (I speak from experience) It does perform well in the dark of course, being backlit. iPad holds illustrations and can handle colour. Its bookshelf is reassuringly real and presents itself as a library of the old order.

Kindle on the other hand, has a screen that can be read in any light – though a light is needed it must be said. The screen cannot be brightened and the pages do not ‘turn’. Instead, a click of the sensitive button on the side of the device allows one to move forward or backwards through the book. The font can be enlarged just as it can with the iPad – a bonus for many people over forty. Its library is in the form of a list of contents and selected by the up, down and across arrows on the main button. The black and white format is set. There is no colour, no illustration. This is a device for reading, pure and simple.

With both devices, ordering a book on-line makes it instantly available on the Kindle or iPad of choice.

Now, what has happened to change my perception of these devices?

I have just spent a relaxing few days on the Isle of Wight. Part of my relaxation routine requires a good book, if not more than one. I was given several books at Christmas and still have a few to read. I chose one that at first glance looked promising, and packed it. One book, I reasoned, would be enough. Memories of stashing seven books in my suitcase on our holidays to France each year, sprang to mind but common sense surfaced. I would not be reading the entire weekend. I just wanted a book to turn to now and then.

Old habits die hard.

At the last minute, I grabbed my Kindle, sadly underused but containing a selection of books, purchased as try-outs, all the same. I pushed it into my bag and forgot about it.

The paperback I pulled out to read on the first night, when presented with a gap in engagements, did not begin well. Claiming to be written by one of the Sunday Times’ top ten best selling authors, who shall remain nameless, the narrator exasperated me at the start by talking to me as though I was a child. The sin of ‘Telling not showing’ being committed over and over again, finally overcame my desire to read any further. This, coupled with stilted and unbelievable conversations introduced for the sole purpose of filling in gaps in the backstory, did nothing to encourage me to persevere.

I was now presented with a dilemma. Should I go out and buy another book or should I pull out the Kindle and see if I wanted to read one of the several books I have downloaded?

“You can read my book if you like, it is very good,” my friend offered, waving a hard backed copy of her novel in my face. The book looked good. However, share a book? I had a better idea. I downloaded a copy to my Kindle.

Oh bliss! Suddenly, thanks to the recommendation from my friend, I had a book that grabbed my attention and kept me reading to the last, er, page.

I forgot the words were appearing on an electronic device. I forgot I was clicking to turn a page. It made no difference. When I had to put it down I did not lose my place, I did not need a bookmark and I could enlarge the type when my eyes were tired. Perfect!

I finished the book this afternoon and have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. In my normal style, I read and read at every opportunity but saved the final few pages until I got home so I could savour the ending.

The Kindle asked if I would like to tweet about it if I had enjoyed it. I did. The book? Kind of Cruel by Sophie Hannah. This author is also on the top ten list of Sunday Times’ bestselling authors.

You may be wondering who wrote the book I disliked so much or what it was called. That I will not divulge. As we all know, one man’s meat is another man’s poison and it may well be that the book in question has delighted readers world-wide. I am not about to besmirch another author’s work on a whim. I am, of course, delighted to promote the book I did enjoy and leave it to you to make your mind up about it, whether you read it on traditional paper or electronically.

Meanwhile, I confess to being a convert to the Kindle, if only because it rescued me from a dire situation – book drought!

Happy reading!

I am an Author, wife to one, mother to five and grandmother to six. I live in the English countryside in Hampshire, UK, with my husband and two dogs and am a non exec Director for Glow


  • Andrea

    I have both of these devices too, Deborah, and I didn’t believe I’d ever want to read much on either of them. I’ll always love holding a book in my hands and the satisfaction of turning a real printed page, but I have to say that, like you, I love the convenience of an e-book. It seems that more and more people want this convenience, and so it’s sad to think that real books might fade away – never completely, of course, but they won’t be around like we have them now. Strange to be standing on this e-bridge, isn’t it – looking back at an old world and stepping forward along with everyone else into the new?

  • Deborah Barker

    Beautifully put Andrea. It does make one wonder what the next generation, the newest generation, will think of such things. My two little grandchildren love their books but each also loves his parents’ iphone…technology really is at their fingertips from birth…

  • screenscribbler

    I like my Kindle especially on holiday. If they made the Kindle waterproof I would read it in the bath. But then books are not bath friendly either. Another drawback is it lacks the shareability of a paperback that I can toss across the room to my partner to read. Yes she could borrow my Kindle, afterall it was a present from her, but she absolutely refuses to embrace new technology, bless her, preferring to hug a tree-book.
    I still buy real books and because of my Kindle my real books are much more appreciated.

    • Deborah Barker

      John – I think the electronic world can live in harmony with the paper one if we let it. A lengthy powercut would soon have us all reaching for the tried and trusted. I like to find out about new technology but no one will ever take my books away!

  • Teresa

    A nightmare averted – saved by the Kindle! I think I would go mad without a book to read 🙂 I read occasionally on a Kindle (not mine) but I still prefer to hold a real book in my hands. Or maybe I’m just addicted to shiny new covers and the smell of a new book (or even an old one!) 🙂 x

    • Deborah Barker

      Nothing could truly replace the pleasure of reading a real book Teresa, still, I am now more than willing to lighten my luggage when going away, by swapping between the two formats from time to time. Yes, I agree, you just cannot beat the smell of a new book or magazine. That applies to new dolls too you know – childhood memories surface now LOL!

  • injaynesworld

    I was given a Nook Color for Christmas 2010 and I love it. I downsized in 2011 from a 3 bedroom home to a one-room cottage and had 30 years worth of books that had to go and to room to collect anymore, so this was perfect. I also love that I can download free samples of books before I decided whether or not to buy them. But yes, I still do enjoy the feel of a “real” book.

    • Deborah Barker

      Hi Jayne, I would hate to have to lose any of my books though there are plenty stored in the loft. You are right, downloading to see if you like a book, especially when someone has just recommended it is just one of the advantages of an e-reader. I have just been to Waterstones and could not resist buying a couple of real books though so my conversion is nowhere near complete!

  • hilarymb

    Hi Deborah .. I await to get both the iPad and the Kindle .. and then I can pass my own judgement – interesting to read your post though .. always useful to hear others’ views .. cheers Hilary

  • patricia60

    I am late to the party, but then again I love my kindle and my Kindle on my Mac air too – I read 3 books aweek and now over 60 my eyes get very tired. I love changing the print size as much as I like taking a break and walking up and down the stairs a few times during the intense reading session. My kindle also reads to me while I am cooking – robot voice but I still progress. Then there is the delight of being able to take so many books with me or add a new one on a whim….and I no longer need to show it at airport security. I like getting my favorite programs on my iPhone too, listening with headphones and not being on line – ahh…there are some new fangled delights on my list…
    A good hard cover book…many are getting very hard to read….with the austere, think paper and smaller print…though I am reviewing a beauty on the 14th… I had to get new glasses – no lie
    the painting in it are awesomely worth it

  • Dr. Brown

    Recently I began reading books on my tablet. I currently have three novels there, and it’s taking some getting used to. I do love the ability to easily highlight text, save notes, and jump immediately back and forth between footnotes. But I miss the visceral sense of holding pages in my hand.

    By the way Deborah…I’ve nominated you for a blogging award…The Versatile Blogger Award. Take a look at my site to find out more.

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