Monday, September 28, 2020

In which I concede that e-books are sort-of OK...

Several years ago on this blog I presented an argument against e-books, vowing that I would never use them. But during this pandemic, e-books (and audiobooks) have been a godsend.

That's because the local library is still closed to the public. To borrow a physical book, I have to order the book online, then wait for the librarians to find it on the shelf (at whichever library it is available) and notify me. I then must make an appointment to pick it up within whatever timeframe they have available, sometimes days away. The library leaves the borrowed book(s) on a table in the alcove, in a paper bag with my name on it. 

When I borrowed a book this summer on how to learn Korean the whole process took a couple of weeks. And it turned out to be the wrong book. Without being able to browse it on the shelf (or see previews of it online), I hadn't realized that the book used a Romanized Korean alphabet, when the whole point was that I wanted learn to read Korean.

Last week when I wanted to borrow The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, I merely had to go to my phone, open the Libby library app and request to borrow it, and download the audiobook to the app, which took maybe ten minutes. I was given 21 days to read it. After a few days, when I wasn't feeling Tom Hanks's narration, I checked Libby again and found an e-book copy available and was able to download it in under five minutes to my iPad, so I could read it with the Kindle app. (I sat up last night, well past midnight, to finish it). I sent back both versions of the now-finished book this morning via the app, and now it's available to the next readers on the list.

So I don't think e-books are evil anymore. They serve a purpose. But I don't want paper books to be entirely replaced with them. When my iPad battery runs down, poof, the book disappears. Meanwhile, all the paper books I own sit placidly on the shelves.

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