Learn to love the ebook

I have had a interesting relationship with eBooks, one that might look like this:


Yes, those are the five stages of grief. And, yes, I know that is kind of crazy if you think about how coming to accept something – say, ebooks – through the stages of grief is generally preceded by a death, in this case of books. As I’ve written before, books are definitely not dead. Yet, here I am, comfortable at the acceptance stage. Indeed, a part of my duties on the reference desk involve showing people how to use eBooks. I’m constantly espousing the benefits, both to drive circulation but also because I believe that ebooks do benefit many of my patrons.

At my library eBook acceptance is growing. According to a recent update email sent to staff:

We continue to add titles for kids, teens and adults to our OverDrive ecollection each month. We currently have 3,019 eBooks and audiobooks in our collection. During February 2015, we had 2,788 checkouts by 780 unique users. In January 2015, we set a new monthly circulation record with 2,903 checkouts. This is a 26% increase in the number of checkouts from January 2014 to January 2015.”

So if eBooks are so valuable to so many people, why is my first reaction – to lash out in anger at the phenomenon – such a common response? Rick Anderson at Scholarly Kitchen wrote a post just about this reaction (as well as stronger and even more violent reactions of some famous people):

“Why do ebooks—and e-information generally—cause such teeth-grinding rage and rhetorical hysteria in some people? … I suppose you can chalk some of this reaction up to nostalgia. As a member of the shrinking population of people who remember when libraries smelled like books, a part of me is sympathetic to that sentiment.”

And that is what it is for me, though Anderson goes on to refute the argument that eBooks serve only to increase the digital divide, among other arguments from the anti-eBook camp. I still prefer to read physical books. But my experience of physical books is fundamentally different from my experience of eBooks. After being forced to purge some of my book collection for an upcoming move, I realized that the books I kept (and now purchase) are those that are special to me. They have lasting value and nostalgia between their sometimes worn covers, and I own them because I plan to reread them (or, in some cases, because I have already re-read them so many times) because I love how I feel when I experience them. But there are plenty of checkmarks in the pros column when considering ebooks. And I do in fact own some ebooks. But I think the bottom line is that there is place in our reading society for both, and indeed, both formats have their place. So I say lovers of eBooks and physical books alike (and those who love both) must stop the battle and join forces to win the greater war: The fight against illiteracy. Both formats can play an important part, if only we get past these silly arguments.

Library Links: eBooks


One thought on “Learn to love the ebook

  1. Great post! I’m an ebook lover, so I have to admit I don’t understand people’s fear/anger towards ebooks. This helps me understand but also gives me hope we can get past all that. Because really, no one’s out there mourning the cassette tape, right? At the same time, like you I have piles of physical books that I love and won’t part with.

    I love Overdrive so I’ll be very interested to see what happens with that.

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