The problem with purists? They just can’t accept anything new. Just like the way some pianists frown at the sight of synthesisers, some “bookworms” have always frowned upon e-book readers. Whether you like it or not, they are taking the world by storm. If you have no idea what they are, you must have been living under a stone all these years. I have used only one eBook reader extensively till date, and that is the Kindle Paperwhite, currently three years old. Having read quite a number of books (eBooks, sorry!) on it, I will tell you whether they can replace the paperbacks in your hands or not.
Do note that in this article, I will only talk about dedicated eBook readers although eBooks can be read on laptops, desktops, tablets (over hyped for their capabilities of being a good reading device), smartphones, iPods, etc. If you are not a serious reader, you’re better off on one of the devices stated above. The reason is that there is only one thing that eBook readers are meant for, and that is reading.
Okay, so how exactly does this system work? I mean, when I want to read (physical) books, I can just head over to the bookstore down the street. But how do I procure an eBook? I worry it isn’t that convenient? No, procuring eBooks is a much simpler deal than buying books. If you want to read a licensed copy, you have to pay for it online and the device will start downloading the eBook. There are other unethical ways of procuring it too, but we won’t be discussing that here. Now, once it’s downloaded, it’s yours forever. Kindle offers the option of downloading and reading it on any of your other devices, you just need to sign in to your Amazon account. The advantage here is that the prices of the ebooks are a lot cheaper than their paperback/hard cover counterparts. And during sales, best-sellers can be bought at throwaway prices. The Amazon Kindle store that I use also has a large amount of classics which are absolutely free to download and read. There are also online libraries that you can borrow books from, by paying them on a monthly/half yearly/ annual basis. There are also websites like Project Gutenberg which provide some notable publications for free to everyone.
You can also read .pdf files, .epub files and .mobi files on a Kindle. Transferring them to your Kindle from your PC is a simple task, courtesy a free software called Calibre. Download it here.
You might not need to be a tree hugger, but all of us do and should care about Mother Nature. Most of the times, the digital world is a bane to nature, but eBooks sure are a boon. Using eBooks means considerably limiting produce of paper.
If you are worried about stressing your eyes, eBook readers use a special kind of e-ink display, which only allow black and white colours to be displayed on the screen, but are very different to LED/LCD screens. In natural lighting conditions, they are actually quite indistinguishable. However, research says that reading eBooks on an eBook reader at night with a high brightness level can take its toll on your eyes as well as sleep, so keep that in mind.
Can it replace my bookshelf? Yes and No. Yes, in a lot of ways. These days, almost any book is available to buy in the digital format. Reading it on an eBook reader means cutting down on costs and not having to worry about space. (eBook readers these days are capable of storing tonnes of eBooks). Using it a lucid and pleasurable experience. Plus, you also get bonuses like on-board dictionary, highlighter and internet lookup facilities, which would have been cumbersome to do when reading a physical book. No, because frankly, purely from a real book lover’s POV, physical books are irreplaceable. The fact that you can actually feel and touch them truly makes a world of difference. The smell of old books is something that eBook readers will never be able to reproduce.
It’s quite clear that the world is taking its leap towards the digitisation of physical books, whether you like it or not. Adopting slowly towards eBooks doesn’t mean throwing away physical books. My suggestion would be to be open to both. But if you are serious about reading an eBook, an eBook reader is a must.