In what way does this argue against ebooks?

I saw this on Facebook:

This says more about the user than the product.

This says more about the user than the product.

We could ask the question: why is this even a fight we’re having? Why do we have to argue about ebooks vs. paper, or e-readers vs. bookshelves? Why do we have to tussle over the medium like one or the other makes the more authentic book-lovers? Why can’t we just talk about the books we love, rather than the paper or e-ink on which they’re displayed? I love my Kindle, but I don’t think I’m better than those who favor the printed page.

Even if that question has an answer, this is not the sort of argument that makes me think maybe I should recycle my Kindle after all.  This is the sort of argument that says more about the mentality of the user than the merits of the product.

When I bought my Kindle, I didn’t do it to impress anyone. I did it because I loved reading books. The fact that it’s infinitely less space-intensive than printed books on shelves was a feature, not a bug. I liked that ebooks could be bought for much cheaper than print, and that I could buy them at 2 AM in the dark of my bedroom, and that delivery was instantaneous. Sometimes I get ebooks for free! I still like all of those qualities of my Kindle. I don’t think my e-reader makes me cooler than you. It’s just a handy device that allows me to save money, space and weight on the books I love to read.

I understand that it’s comforting to sit in a room full of colorful book spines lined up on tall shelves, but some of us can’t afford the real estate to maintain that environment. Some of us have to move four times in as many years, and we don’t live in houses with generous rooms that can be filled with shelves. For some of us, having a wall covered in books isn’t a comfort, it’s a burden. A box filled with hardbacks is heavy. Some of us can’t afford to hire movers to haul our tons of reading material to the next humble abode.

For some of us, being able to put our reading material on display is a non-issue. If our house-guests want to know what we’ve read, they can ask, and we can have a conversation about the joys of the written word. Some of us don’t buy books as a way to impress others. We buy books because we want to get lost in other worlds, fall in love with the characters, and enjoy the way the sentences come together.

This argument, that printed books are “impressive” in ways that ebooks aren’t, doesn’t do anything to show me that you know something I don’t. It contributes to the impression that e-books are for those who love to read, while printed books are for those who want to be seen reading. It’s the difference between books as a pleasure and books as a marker of class.

I am not impressed.

2 thoughts on “In what way does this argue against ebooks?

  1. I follow you on Twitter and just happened upon this post and I wanted to say: thank you! A very well thought-out argument an completely true. Books are books and if you truly love to read, you will get your hands on them in any form you can. There are certainly better arguments for preference than the one this photo tries to make.

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