Do E-Books Dream of Electric Readers?

I bought a Kindle shortly after they were first released.  I was excited at the thought of being able to have countless books at my fingertips anywhere I went.  In the beginning, I was like a kid in a candy store, shopping for Kindle books, disappointed when I couldn’t get some of the more favorite books in an electronic format.  Like many, I wanted instant gratification.  Since at the time I could not afford the pricey iPad or even any of its less expensive cousins, I decided that a Kindle would suit my needs.

That was five years ago.

Though I have recommended Kindle (or any of its numerous imitators), I have different thoughts on it now.

What I learned – and this is all personal insight and not really meant to depict the feelings and thoughts of anyone else – is that I don’t like to read fiction on an e-reader.  I remain of the school of thought that I need the entire experience: heft of the book in my hands, texture and feel of the pages between my fingers, the look of the font on the page, and the way the story is laid out.  An e-reader, while convenient and portable, doesn’t give me the same pleasure.  To me it’s the difference between a real, human partner, and a robotic partner.  I may feel one way toward my human partner, but those feelings will likely never translate into anything remotely similar with a robotic partner.  I am a sensual person in that I require touch/smell/sound/sight to get a well-rounded and pleasurable experience.  Because let’s face it, the primary reason I read a book is for the experience.  What I find with an e-reader is that the experience is lessened, neutered somehow.

Oddly, though, the same cannot be said for non-fiction.  For reasons I have yet to discern, I REALLY like reading non-fiction on an e-reader.  My focus is different and I find that I’m much better able to read and absorb the material on an electronic device than I am in a hard-copy version.  If we’d had electronic versions of text books in college, I might’ve gone on to become valedictorian of my class.  I did well enough, but a non-fiction book is a different experience in hard-copy.  Perhaps I expect dry material to be presented in an electronic format, which in itself is dry.  And by “dry” I mean less sensual.  Whereas fiction strives to engage all of our senses, non-fiction is meant to impart information.  What better way than on a computer?

So while friends tend to continue to have mixed feelings about the e-reader phenomena, I have decided that for fiction I will stay with books, and for non-fiction, I’ll load them onto my Kindle.

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