Reading Digitally

It’s better to be late than never, right? By Kenny Yeo

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

It’s better to be late than never, right? By Kenny Yeo

E-books have been around for a long time but I only recently decided to give them a shot. I’m pleased I did. In fact, I have now decided that I will do most of my reading with e-books.

A big problem that keeps me from completing books is that my book is never with me when I have the time to read. This isn’t a problem with e-books since they are on my phone. Since I almost always have my phone with me, I can read whenever I want. Every page counts for slow readers like me, and being able to read a page or two here and there helps.

Most e-book apps have built-in tools like dictionaries and note taking. This is helpful since it means you don’t have to put away the book and consult a dictionary. You can check a word and continue reading without losing context of what’s happening. After all, a single word can make or break a sentence or passage.

With note-taking tools, you can also save and mark passages, then come back to them later. To do the same with printed books means using a highlighter and unsightly post-it notes.

Have you tried using reading lights in a darkened plane cabin? They are usually either too dim or too bright. Or they don’t shine on your book properly and you are forced into an awkward position just so that light falls on it. This isn’t a problem with e-books since smartphones have selfilluminating displays and most of the newer e-book readers have backlights.

And then there’s the convenience of purchasing books. E-books can be purchased online with a few simple clicks of the mouse or taps on the screen. Thereafter, the book appears almost magically on your device. No more running down to the bookstore on the day of the book’s launch.

Finally, there’s the price. E-books are usually less expensive than their printed counterparts. Let’s use Amazon as an example. The Kindle version of Lake Success, a new book by Gary Shteyngart, is US$13.99, whereas the paperback version is US$19.36. The discrepancy can be even greater for older novels. The paperback version of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is US$8.78. The Kindle version is US$4.80 - that’s a whopping 45% less.

In a perfect world where I can have my cake and eat it too, I would rather be reading printed books. As convenient as e-books are, they cannot replicate the smell of printed paper, the sensation of flipping pages, or the vibrancy of color photos. I’m a sucker for those kinds of things. But one needs to be pragmatic, and the advantages of e-books are too many to ignore.