Like the Energizer bunny: The Luddite Chronicles, Part 4: E-books vs. real books

True confession: I’m a Luddite.  Luddites are opposed to technical innovations.  This is the fourth in a series of Luddite Chronicles.  For earlier posts, check these out:

1) Luddite Part 1: The fascinating story of the Luddites…well, slightly fascinating.
2) Luddite Part 2: Newspapers vs. Internet news.
3) Luddite Part 3: Seven reasons smart phones are dumb.
3b) A follow-up to 3: The Curse of the Smart Phone.

Today’s topic e-books vs. real books.  Just to start off, I need to acknowledge that e-books have some advantages:

1) Convenient searching and storage.
2) Instant downloads when purchasing.
3) Slightly cheaper.  (God Behaving Badly is about 50 cents cheaper electronically).

But remember, I’m a Luddite.  I’m opposed to innovations.

Here are 7 reasons why real books are better than e-books:

1) When I drop my copy of God Behaving Badly on the tile floor it still works.  But maybe you never drop things?

2) Coffee stains on books are a slight nuisance, but they don’t short-circuit the book.  But maybe you never spill things?  I probably should have combined this point with the previous e-books-are-fragile point, but I needed 7 points.

3) I don’t want to own the beta-max e-book reader when everyone else has the Blue-ray e-book reader.  The cover may look out of date, but you can still read the book.  How many videos did you have to re-purchase when you got that DVD player?  Perhaps the Kindle 47.0 that I purchase in 15 years will be able to read old electronic copies?  I doubt it.

4) To loan someone a copy of God Behaving Badly, I hand it do them.  I don’t need to make sure they have a compatible e-reader.

5) Waiting for my book in the mail teaches me patience.  Anticipation can be a good thing.

6) To copy pages from a real book I just find a copier and make copies.  (Now, I suspect someone going to tell me there’s an easy way to do this with e-books.)

7) My copy of God Behaving Badly never runs out of batteries.  Like the Energizer bunny it just keeps going, and going, and going…


  1. Preach it, brother!

    In my mind, e-books/readers supplement real (okay, ‘physical’) books rather than replace them–they’re handy if you have very poor eyesight, as you can enlarge the print (I know someone who has one for that reason), or if you want to take a large volume of reading material on a trip (although I’ve always found it a great incentive to pack effeciently), but the rest of the time? Not so much.

    Plus, with real books you can have used book stores–some of the most marvelous places on earth! Can’t do that with digital.

  2. There are several easier more convenient and quicker ways to copy from e-books. But the key points are searchability and portability. How many paper (Betamax anyone?) codices can you carry around in your manbag? E-readers store whole libraries. When I want to find a page that (I think I remember) you mentioning in passing king Asa how long would it take me to find out that you didn’t in the code edition, and how long in the e-book (Blueray anyone?).

  3. Lydia, Good point about the flexibility of e-readers (font size).
    Tim, I agree e-books have advantages. My wife has a Kindle and I have books on my iPad, so I’m not a total Luddite. But I like to have multiple books open at the same time. In fact, I now have 2 computer screens at work, but it’s awkward to work from an e-book and I would never have multiple e-books. Also, it’s still faster to open a real book and turn straight to the page I need. E-books need to be turned on, they fade to black to save energy, then I have to scroll to get to the right place, which takes time. It’s cumbersome. I’m sure they’ll get better. We’ll see.

  4. Simon, I believe humor is edifying. (Although, you may not find any humor in my post.) Also, I firmly believe technology is one of the biggest idolatries of our time. I’m trying to defame this particular idol, to make us question why we always need the newest and best (and most expensive) technology. Sometimes I make my attack on technology explicit. Sometimes I try to be more subtle.

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