Ugly is as Ugly Reads: In Defense of E-Readers

The author and his e-reader.
Me, not getting prettier by the minute.

The tweet hit like a swat to the cheek.

“Reading books instead of Kindles can improve your memory, concentration, and good looks.”

And the source of this stunning wisdom?


You know, the social media site for book lovers, the one that bills itself as “the largest site for readers and book recommendations.”

My first reaction: Who now what now when now?

My second reaction: If reading books improves your looks, I must resemble Chris Hemsworth.

Let me run and check that bathroom mirror.

Nope. Still me.

GoodReads actually linked to a “report” and you can read the bunk, er, junk science for yourself.

As for proof that books make you more attractive, the author turns to Craiglist “missed connection” posts, arguing that being seen with a book makes you more sexy to strangers. The equally valid conclusion of this barely anecdotal data is that a book makes you bait for stalkers.

GoodReads, we have to remember, is owned by Amazon, only the biggest seller of books, e-books and the No. 1 e-reader in the world, the Kindle. Maybe the social media manager for the account forgot that. Or was bucking for a reason to be fired. (Full disclosure: I have a profile on GoodReads, though just barely.)

It’s odd that GoodReads would suggest to people that there’s actually a right way and a wrong way to read.

But here are a few reasons why E-Readers rock:

A portable library weighing about half a pound.
A portable library weighing about half a pound.

Brave New World

I love books. I have so many, I’ve run out of shelving in my apartment and have stacks on the living room floor. I’m about one paperback away from being dragged on to an episode of “Hoarders.”

With an e-reader, you never have to worry about space. The average device can hold about 2,000 books, and most of the devices, regardless of vendor, store your purchases digitally – so you can delete a publication and get it back later if you wish, at no additional cost.

My whole working life, I’ve had jobs that have required a bit of a commute on the subway. So I always packed a book. Sometimes those books were heavier than I would have liked. And more times than I care to admit, I’d pull out that book and realize I wasn’t in the mood to read that particular tome, that I wished I had pulled another book off my slush pile at home.

Problem solved with my e-reader. Whatever I’m in the mood for, I can find it or I can get it – all in a device that maybe weighs eight ounces with a cover.

Farewell to Arms

PCs, tablets and smart phones can strain your eyes. Doctors recommend taking a break and looking away every 20 minutes or so to rest your eyes a and to refocus.

Dedicated e-readers use smart ink technology to simulate the pages of a book. There’s no glare.

For people who are getting older or who have some vision or physical impairment issues, a dedicated e-reader can be a lifesaver. You can bump up the font size with a touch of the screen. You can’t do that with a hardcover.

Easy to hold and to use.
Easy to hold and to use.

After I was hit by a car in October, my left arm was stuck in the sling from hell. Holding a book, much less turning the pages of a book, would have been aggravating. With my light e-reader in my one good hand, I was able to turn pages with a tap of a thumb onto the screen and read comfortably.

Cheaper by the Dozen

E-readers have come down in price so much, just about any household can afford one. Amazon offers a touchscreen model with WiFi connectivity for $79.

After the initial investment, even a casual reader will start saving money. There are thousands of classics now in the public domain and free as e-books, ranging from Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” to Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables.”

Current best-sellers in e-book form are marked down dramatically. You always save over hard copies.

Maisy Goes Shopping

My habits have changed as a reader and a buyer, and I’ve only recently become aware of this. I’ve always been a good reader, but now with my e-reader, I’m a voracious reader. I’m much more likely to take a chance on an author or a genre I am not familiar with in e-book form.

I am currently reading “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins. The hardcover retails for $26.95, Amazon discounts that to $13.47, but the e-book costs $6.99.

I would never have purchased a hard copy out of a book store. It’s not just something I would even pick up off the shelves. But I read a good review in “The New York Times” and ordered it and had it a moment later. Oh, and it’s great.

Best thing about this store? It’s always open, whether it’s 2 p.m. or 4 a.m.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

After that encounter with a car, I ended up bed-ridden in a nursing home for two-and-a-half months. Have you ever stayed in a nursing home? Even though I was in a clean, secure facility, I don’t recommend it. Do you know how long the days are in a nursing home? I did the math: One hour in a nursing home equals about eight months in real time.

This was a nice man who rolled around a couple of times with a cart of books. There some ragged copies of thrillers, some coffee-table sized tomes and a couple of gardening books. Gardening books, I remember thinking: Why are there gardening books when just about no one here is getting out of here?

Thanks to a digital subscription, every day, my e-reader delivered a copy of “The New York Times.” I was able to shop and download countless books and gorged myself silly. For some reason, gee, I can’t imagine why, I was drawn to humorous books. I tore through such books as Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” and laughed my head off.

I'm watching you. Don't even think about it.
I’m watching you. Don’t even think about it.

My e-reader diverted my attention. I was able to forget about my injuries and my long rehab and escape.

You can take my phone – please.

You can even take my iPad.

But you’ll have to pry my e-reader out of my cold, dead hands.

Here’s the thing: Books aren’t going away. Books are never going away. An e-reader just gives people more options and freedom. Isn’t that something we can all value?

The stories matter, not the medium.

5 thoughts on “Ugly is as Ugly Reads: In Defense of E-Readers

  1. Olivia Emily

    Finally someone arguing /for/ e-readers! Ever since that article, everyone has been blogging about how books beat e-readers scientifically, and my Kindle was starting to feel a little lonely! My Kindle is the best thing that ever happened to me!


  2. Anna Kopp

    I wholeheartedly agree! And I’m even more happy that libraries are getting on the eBook wagon and I’m able to check out books straight from my reader. It’s fantastic!


  3. Pingback: Do You Need the New Kindle Oasis? – Far from Rome

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