A question that’s guaranteed to divide popular opinion (other than Brexit) is which is best – eBooks or paper versions? As a reader, I’d be more inclined to say that nothing beats the real thing. It’s the physical connection you get from an actual book that simply can’t be replaced virtually. I have quite a collection of books on my bookshelf that I’d hate to part with, books that have been signed by their authors or simply ones I plan to go back to one day because I enjoyed them so much. In my virtual library, there are undoubtedly books I’ve loved, and while I know they’ll always be there, I don’t get that same sense of satisfaction in ‘keeping’ them.
That being said, eBooks are SO convenient. If I want to read a book someone recommends, I can download it in seconds. I can take countless books away with me on holiday, and I can easily access a book on my phone when I’m unexpectedly stuck on a train or a bus, or when I’ve become tired of reading the posters in a waiting room.
Of course, you don’t run out of power when you’re reading a real book. And if you want to flick back to a favourite passage or check some fact or other, flicking through the pages is much easier than clicking through pages on screen.
Ah, but I forgot, you can add bookmarks and notes to eBooks, can’t you? And so the argument turns in my mind – and that’s before I’ve even considered the issue from an author’s point of view.
When I had my first book published, there was nothing in this world that could have replaced that feeling of walking into a bookshop and picking up my book from the shelf; feeling the crisp white pages and smelling the fresh ink that gave life to my words. I keep longing for the day when I’ll be sitting on a train and I catch someone with their nose in one of my books. It hasn’t happened yet, and probably never would if we all went digital; not unless I went around looking over people’s shoulders to see what they were reading on their tablet.
One advantage that eBooks do have is longevity. My first book Yesterday’s Sun was published in 2012, and while you’re unlikely to find it in a bookshop these days, it’s still available online for download, and hopefully will be for a very long time.
I suppose the conclusion I’m drawing to is that there’s room for both formats. I’m more than happy as a reader and a writer to have both options available, so back to the question I pose in the title of this blog: When is an eBook better than the real thing?
The answer is when my publisher decides to release the digital format of a novel before the official publication date, as is the case with The Affair. If you have any iTunes or Amazon vouchers burning a hole in your pocket from Christmas, and don’t want to wait until 12th January, it’s available for download now!