My new book reader finally arrived… Hooray!

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Kobo Aura H2O

Kobo Aura H2O

A couple of weeks ago, I managed to break my primary ebook reader. It is (was) a lovely Kobo Aura HD. It went everywhere with me, which may have been the problem because everywhere includes to work in a rucksack and into the shower.

This was, of course, an opportunity to order the new Kobo Aura H2O, which wouldn’t mind if I took it in the shower.

A waterproof book reader – it’s amazing nobody has thought of it before. I knew there were places you could send your reader off to, and they would waterproof it (for a price, obviously), or you could do it the low-tech way, which is to put your reader in a freezer bag, but a real waterproof reader is amazing.

It’s lovely to be able to take it in the shower – and I’ve started having baths again, just so I can relax in the bath with my Aura. Plus, the screen is an improvement over my old Aura HD – the white is whiter, the black is blacker. There isn’t a hard button for turning off the light any more, but I’ve got used to doing it with the on-screen slider.

I was an early adopter of ebooks – I like gadgets! Since getting my first ereader – an Irex ILiad, which cost over £400 – I’ve become a firm believer in ebooks, for fiction at least. I love being able to carry multiple books around with me, and never having to worry about running out of things to read (especially since I also carry my emergency reading on iPhone and iPad, just in case). I love being able to read while eating without having to work out some way to keep the book from closing or flipping over pages. I love being able to read in bed by the soft glow of the reader screen, rather than having to keep the main light on. It’s also easier to get to sleep after reading in a mostly-dark room.

Aside from my love affair with my book reader, I always love to see more authors’ backlists being published as ebooks – for me, it’s one more step towards every book being available electronically. Being a long-time ebook fan, I’ve watched as more and more prominent authors moved towards having ebook editions, and rejoiced every time I found a new one, whether I intended to buy any of that author’s work or not. Ebooks have also allowed the revival of the novella – uneconomical to publish in paper format – and for authors to publish short stories as singles for the first time. Thanks to ebooks, authors have more freedom than they have ever had before, incuding the freedom to publish without involving a commercial publishing house.

Yet, even with the evidence of ever-increasing ebook sales, there are still people who swear that ebooks are a passing fad, or that ebooks aren’t as good as paper.

For some uses, yes – at least at the moment – paper wins. I still prefer paper for textbooks (until I have to copy out any quotes, of course, at which point I prefer electronic), and in schools it’s probably logistically easier to use paper for class reading books. And yes, paper books look pretty on a bookshelf, and downloading an epub file doesn’t have the same feel as buying a book and taking it home…

It’s noticeable, though, that most critics of ebooks do not concentrate on what paper books do well (easier to keep a class of kids on the same page, easier to flip back and forth, no colour diagrams on an ereader); nor do they concentrate on what ebooks do badly (colour pictures, browsing bookshelves, being able to see at a glance what books you own). Instead, they concentrate on emotional responses that are nothing to do with the author’s words. When I read of someone criticising ebooks because they “like the smell of a paper book” or they “like to turn the pages by hand”, I find myself thinking, “well, if that turns you on, buy yourself a blank notebook from WHSmiths; clearly, the author’s words aren’t important to you.” It’s also interesting how many of these ebook detractors admit that they’ve never even tried reading an ebook.

As for being able to pass on old copies of paper books – well, good luck with that. It’s getting increasingly difficult to find a charity shop that will take books, and second-hand bookshops are getting picky too. Selling on Amazon will get rid of the books, but since many paperbacks are selling for 1p each, it’s often more (or nearly as) expensive to sell the book than to just stick it in the recycling box.

These people seem to forget that books are for reading. Books are not for home decor, nor are they fashion accessories. They are a mechanism for making the words of the author available to the reader, and an ebook does that supremely well – far better than a paper book, because it’s faster and cheaper, and doesn’t snap shut if you don’t weight it down with the edge of your dinner plate.

After all, paper or eInk is only the delivery system: the real magic of reading happens in your own head, as the story unfolds in glorious technicolour behind your eyes – regardless of whether you have a paper page or a black-and-white eInk display.

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