Printed books are an endangered species


Tina Dubinsky

When we sat down to unwrap presents Christmas morning, I already knew that one of my gifts was a book. I was excited about having a new book to read. It wasn’t just any book, but a real book, a printed book that I could touch and smell.

My book beneath the christmas tree
Our modest Christmas tree and our daughter’s excited smile at around 6.30am Christmas morning. One of those presents is my book!

Printed books are an endangered species. eBooks have quickly become the new mode of reading over the last decade, even though as a reader I personally feel the ebook experience sucks.

In Australia, Borders and Angus & Robertson struggled to remain open in 2011 – 2012, amidst the rise of online book sales. With no buyers interested in the remaining ten stores, Borders disappeared completely. As an avid reader and writer, I lament the collapse of the retail book store, almost as much as I miss the feel and ease of reading a printed book.

Offline access to ebooks can sometimes be frustrating. Electrical storms pound the eastern seaboard of Australia, and they appear to be more severe. Out of four major storms to pass over us in the last few months, our neighbourhood lost power three times.

The last storm resulted in our power supply being cut until noon the next day. As a result, our cable internet suffered, its outage lasted twice as long as the power. Being disconnected from the world wouldn’t be so bad if I could keep reading. But lack of power and no internet means I am unable to continue reading my ebooks.

Access is just one of the issues I have with online books and e-readers. I read ebooks from a number of sources including Amazon, Scribd and Apple. In order to read the books I download, I must use a browser or an app on my computer or iPhone. I don’t have a Kindle. Whether I’m sitting at my computer or trying to read from my iPhone, reading has become a frequently less enjoyable experience.

I once enjoyed the ease of reading a printed book or p-book almost anywhere. Now, I have to worry about glare, the screen turning sideways depending on the angle I hold it, and dropping my iPhone if I doze off while reading.

Kindle book app lock feature
The lock feature on Kindle stops the app from rotating while reading an ebook. It isn’t as easy with Scribd which requires you to use the lock feature on the phone, therefore restricting this feature for other apps where it is useful.

While some books may be heavier than a digital device, they don’t have the same rock hard, jarring impact of a falling iPhone. When you fall asleep reading, dropping an iPhone or iPad on your face hurts. Printed books seem to fold more comfortably into the crook of an arm, whereas an electronic device becomes tiresome to hold up.

I do read more stories now that I have access to ebooks, yet I feel my quality of reading has deteriorated. On a small budget, I tend to lean towards ebooks that are only a few dollars to purchase.

I also have a Scribd subscription. Scribd seems to lack the popular contemporary titles that might cost $10 or more on Amazon. The more expensive titles are usually the books with stories that I find attractive. With a low online budget, the quality of the stories seem to reflect the price.

There are some less expensive ebooks that stand out and will keep my attention, but it often feels like a struggle to find them.

I often wonder when reading an ebook: if I had purchased a printed copy of the story would I have enjoyed reading it more?

As I don’t have the luxury of a Kindle, I find the internet and frequent app notifications distracting while  e-reading. My eyes seem to tire more easily and my attention span has decreased significantly.

Browsing or scanning ahead with an ebook is much more difficult, and going back to find and re-read a section is like playing 52 Card Pickup. I also dislike having to turn ebook pages more frequently.

New ebooks seem shorter than traditional printed books. As I have a tendency to consume a ‘good’ book at a fast pace, I prefer to commit to a book that will take me at least a day or two to finish rather than a few hours. Instead, I find I am downloading two or three ebooks for a reading session. Admittedly, I frequently discard ebooks less than a chapter in, to go searching for a story that is more riveting.

Printed books are much harder to discard. This is one of my more creative book stands. I ran out of book shelves, so borrowed the pot plant shelf from outside.
Printed books are much harder to discard. This is one of my more creative book stands. I ran out of book shelves, so I borrowed the pot plant shelf from outside.

Despite my dislike of ebooks, I will keep downloading books to read. eBooks are significantly cheaper and more accessible when the power and internet are working, though I can’t help but feel my hand is being forced.

While I enjoy the ease of downloading an ebook, I am reserving some of my book budget for the feel and smell of printed paper. Books in my house are a prized possession, memorable trophies of the adventures of our imaginations.

I like collecting books that I can see upon my shelves. Printed books are not yet fossils though they are an endangered species. I dread the day when they may become extinct.

Please consider providing a home for printed books in your house too.


My christmas present book
The book I received for Christmas from Alex – Perfect Ruin by Lauren Destefano. Expect a review soon!

Comments, thoughts?