Writers: Still Holding Out Against Electronic Books?



I’m surprised by how many writers I meet who dismiss e-readers without a second thought. I’ve now owned them for several years, and thought I should run a quick evaluation.

Sales of e-readers are plateauing, paper book sales are up. I can see why; the publishing industry didn’t want to suffer the same fate as the music and cinema industries, and it hasn’t cost them much to fight back. Books are more attractive now with special offer prices, reprints presented by guest writers, better design – peanuts in terms of real expenditure, but it has largely worked. The real boon is online purchasing, so e-reading and paper books work well together instead of fighting one another for the same market.

You don’t pirate a book in the way you might copy a digital music file; it’s simply not worth the effort. Much of my research reading involves buying books which never appear in digital format because they’re simply too niche-oriented. Then why do I own two Kindles? For the same reason that all writers should own at least one.

I travel quite a bit and keep a large digital reference library on me at all times. The pages are aligned from one device to the next, so I’m always at the same point in my research. I highlight passages, make notes and learn new words, all of which are auto-added to my laptop. Ambient screen light, typeface size and portability mean I read in far more places than before. I toggle between reviews, research and whatever I’m reading.

But the biggest boon is the free material. Keeping a permanent collection of works by major authors means I can check references instantly. If I lose my Kindle I only replace the physical device because everything’s Cloud-based. And I use it for pleasure, not just work. I like the reading experience. Turn off the page numbering and you won’t know you’ve embraced on an 800 page novel, so it won’t daunt you. Plus, I tend to read four volumes at once. Right now I’m on a rare volume by Norman Collins, John Buchan’s ‘The Blanket of the Dark’, David Edgar’s ‘How Plays Work’ and an obscure Ngaio Marsh. Finding these books digitally would have been unthinkable even two years ago.

Who knows what influences will end up in your work? We mulch and grow our own seeds from the groundsoil of others. I even download large format books for their text value (I don’t enjoy visuals on e-readers). Also, old novels are often packaged at extremely attractive prices.

There are exceptions; a few authors have been inappropriately priced on Kindle. But as a tool in the writer’s arsenal, it has finally become an essential item. By comparison, being a bit of a notebook freak I purchased a Moleskin notebook (I wouldn’t if I’d read their ad blurb, which suggests the main reason for purchase is that Hemingway had one) and a case for it, only to find that one didn’t fit the other and both fell apart in days.

Sometimes, though, only a pen, paper and a book will do. But considering books are probably a writer’s biggest outlay, a Kindle repays itself many times over. I prefer the Oasis over the Voyage but the Voyage has an origami cover you can stand on a coffee table.

All observations welcome!

7 comments on “Writers: Still Holding Out Against Electronic Books?”

  1. Steve says:

    For fiction, in my opinion the only reason to have a physical book is the whole sentimental, physical appearance, thing. Otherwise, I’m delighted to have got rid of many many boxfuls of smelly old paperbacks. I used to always browse the airport bookstalls for the 2-for-10 pounds offers. I never buy those as phyical books any more, and havent for several years now.
    But I find for non-fiction I much prefer traditional books. That’s because I read them non-linearly, holding my finger in reference points to go back and forth, footnotes often take me several gos to hit the mark, pictures and diagrams can be a lottery if they work or are slow.
    Im looking forward to try the new Aura 1 by the way.

  2. Steve says:

    By the way, another discussion: dedicated eink reader or ipad / notebook?
    I decided I much prefer eink for books though for epapers I am fine to use the ipad.

  3. Vivienne says:

    Obviously Kindles are fabulous for travelling. Even out for a day, if you stop and sit down in a park or somewhere for a bit, how could you have predicted what sort of mood you’d be In when you set out? With a kindle you can go for strong science, a thriller, old classic to catch up on, or even download something else. You wouldn’t want to carry all that. I bought mine when they were new and still have it. Must be very basic, but I just read. It did get updated software wise recently and so I think I can choose fonts but, apart from choosing larger print when it gets dark, I’m very easily pleased. But I have not got rid of one real book – ownership in thousands.

  4. Rachel Green says:

    I’ve embraced the kindle reader on my tablet and now buy almost exclusively on Kindle (the exceptions are signed copies) Best of all is I can read without a light on and enlarge the text.

  5. David McLean says:

    My Kindle is on all my devices 2x Kindles, and 2x tablets..1 for me and one for my wife. So handy when the paper book runs to 800 pages. Also I load them with collections of short stories so good when waiting at Doctor or Dentists . Being a retired person the ebooks are now within my budget. Books are quite expensive here in New Zealand. $40 plus for a paper back

  6. Duncan says:

    I instantly dismissed kindles but was then bought one as a gift many years ago. After hiding my disappointment I gave it a try and haven’t looked back since, even treating myself to a Paperwhite when they first came out. What I’d give to afford an Oasis!

    I remember many moons ago, admin mentioning reading Wolf Hall on a kindle. Having struggled with the library copy I followed his lead and read it within the week, totally immersed without the weight of it putting me off. I also find it brilliant for large history books, removing the intimidation.

    Admin – if you like notebooks, I heartily recommend Leichturm 1917 as a brand. Far superior to Moleskine and they fountain pen ink happily in their stride.

  7. Steve What is the Aura 1?

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