A Decision Not to Buy Physical Books

(and using an eReader instead)


Whilst I do not own what I deem to be an overwhelming amount of books, I do own a decent amount, and have filled a significant number of shelves with them over time. Depending on where books are bought from, and a myriad of other factors, they may prove to be fairly expensive. This is especially ostensible whenever one decides to buy several books at a time.

As has been made evident due to other things I have written on this site, I own an eReader. It has been almost a year exactly since I purchased it, and I remain very happy with my decision to do so. Having spent more time using it, I may say that the portability has proven wonderful time and time again, and it has remained very comfortable to use. The battery life has remained so long that I have never once been bothered by it, and I have actually discovered, over time, that I find myself reading much more on my eReader than I ever did whilst reading from physical books.

I often hear protestations from others that amount largely to the idea of 'I enjoy the tactile experience of reading a physical book'. They claim to enjoy the feeling of the turn of a page, the smell of a dated paperback, and so on. To begin with, I would have said I felt this way also, to an extent. Nonetheless, I find myself reading more voraciously whilst using an eReader than whenever I read physical books (which I do still do on occasion), and have found it to have increased productivity in this sense, if anything. The reading experience is also generally much more comfortable: I do not have to hold down flat a paperback that insists on shutting when drawn back from; I do not have to worry about dog-earing the page of a novel; I do not have to worry about the effects of potentially irreversible marginalia. I do not have to worry about tarnishing books, and instead focus wholly on the writing itself.

One may be quick to argue that this fear of tarnishing a book may be mitigated simply if only less value were placed, in the reader's mind, on the book's appearance. They may say this, and yet, why then do we so often desire books with covers we deem appealing? Special editions? Why do we refuse to deign to annotate certain books?

Some people will do such things regardless, but many will admit to purchasing books largely so that they may sit pretty on a bookshelf. Attitudes towards books certainly differ, and some will buy and read a secondhand paperback once and then give it away again. It varies, and I acknowledge this.

In an attempt to mitigate the sense of guilt I felt in the past about buying books physically, I resolved to buy them primarily from secondhand shops and charity stores and so on. Whilst I do certainly believe this is preferable, for many people it often still results in them buying several books that they ultimately never finish (or even begin) reading. These collect dust on their bookshelves for years to come.

My decision to continue buying physical books has been questioned in the past. In an attempt to stubbornly and feebly provide an explanation, I shared the same excuse as I have heard so often from so many others that I 'enjoy the tactile experience'. In retrospect, however, knowing now that I genuinely prefer the experience of reading on an eReader, I can say this was not a well-rooted explanation at all. Stubbornly, I had attempted to justify a behaviour that I cannot actually justify to myself at all.

In actuality, I was buying them due to some sense of excitement (as will come with shopping for so many), and an acute and brief sense of fulfilment. And yet, this feeling of fulfilment never persisted, in the end. When I think back on the experience of reading EPUBs acquired freely on my eReader, I feel no pang of regret. Whenever I think of what I have spent on classic novels in bookstores, I wince. In the end, I think that is why I try to justify it to myself. People often do not seem to wish to admit that they feel like they've wasted their time, effort or money on something, so they shell out justification, praise and hidden meaning where they otherwise may not believe such things are due. I am not immune to this.

I think this kind of behaviour may be seen in response to many things: time spent on films (I think of Caché, which I watched last night), video games (personally, the Persona series) and television shows (for me, anime such as Angel Beats! and Madoka Magica); money spent on shopping whenever one does not actually require such goods or even end up using them often (video games played once or twice, clothes worn for a single occasion, books left on bookshelves); effort spent on intellectual pursuits, if you may, or hobbies (a failed attempt at learning a language, an area of study dropped and never returned to, a cake burnt or ruined with too much of some ingredient). As a result, instead of attempting to learn from such things, people may attempt to justify them stubbornly. Consequently, they are prone to making similar mistakes again, or at the very least, appearing disagreeable and unreasonable to others.

This may be something I have noticed only because of how stubborn I can be on occasion, but nonetheless, I have noticed it in others, also. Looking back, I wish I'd listened more whenever others had questioned my behaviours, instead of continuing on with them blindly and not genuinely questioning them myself.

Classic literature is certainly not all that I read, but it does make up a significant portion of what I read. Thankfully, this means that I may very easily find EPUB versions of novels that I wish to read in the public domain. Examples may be Joyce's 'Ulysses', Homer's 'Odyssey' and Shelley's 'Frankenstein'. If one is concerned about EPUB prices, or the free downloading of books, for whatever reason, they may consider just how many books are shared freely in the public domain.

Possibly a small point to some, also, but whenever I inevitably decide to travel or move, not having to transport hundreds of physical books will be a weight off of my back (literally).

In conclusion, I wish to say that this is the reasoning behind my decision to procure digitally all of the books that I read, as opposed to physically, insofar as this is possible. On occasion, books are not released in digital form, and if I really do wish to read them then I will make an exception for this. On the whole, though, I have concluded than an eReader was a great investment, and that I might as well make the most of it. Buying physical books has proven unnecessary and disagreeable.