Talk About Cheesecake

Musings, meanderings and meditation for my mind.


Paperback or E-Reader – the fight is on!

This weeks Weekly Writing Challenge is about Books versus Ebooks. 

As I have already blogged about this, I am going to cheat a little and re-post it here, so if this looks familiar, it is! 


I have read a lot of posts and comments on paper books versus electronic readers. I started on the hate side of the fence but I have to admit, I am coming round to agreeing that an e-reader does have it uses. Let me tell you why.

I love to read. I love books. When I was a child I would keep my books in a neat row on the shelf – Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, tales of Greek mythology and Arthurian legends. If I had a series, they had to be in number order. I enjoyed rearranging my books – sometimes they would be in height order, sometimes they needed to be in alphabetical order by author. I played librarian, except I hated letting other people actually take my books away.

OK, I sound like a really fun child to play with – I know.

I love the feeling of a book in my hands while I read. I feel a kind of reverence when looking through a big fat encyclopaedia, so much knowledge in one place. There is excitement at starting a new book in a series by a favourite author. Anticipation in trying out a new writer. Old books smell of something undefinable. The paper they are made of has a different feel to newly published books – softer, I think.

I always imagined being a grown up and having my very own miniature library in my house, which would have floor to ceiling shelves full of my books. A comfy leather armchair by a fireplace to read by. A lounging sofa in a  wide window to lie in the warm sunshine while disappearing into a different world.

Now, in my own home, I have a room I call my study (the rest of the family seem to think of it as the dining room), where I work during the day. I am sneakily turning it into my perfect library by adding a new bookcase here and there and placing my books on display, while pretending to Mr G that it really is still the dining room, in case we ever want to eat a formal meal in there.

The problem I have is that I just don’t have enough room for all of my books. I have 3 large bookshelves proudly displaying all of my favourite authors, from Terry Pratchett to Anne McCaffrey, Ilona Andrews and Rachel Vincent. The majority are fantasy, but along the bottom of each book case are my reference books, the history of the English Language, the origins of myths and folklore, and some favourite historical novels and easy reading.

But – it’s just not enough. Upstairs in a cupboard are 2 more boxes full of books, hidden away when they should be out in the sunshine.

So here are my reasons for liking e-readers.

1. Space

When one of my main authors brings out a new book, I like to buy the paperback. I want to have the whole series in the same format and be able to take them down off the shelf whenever I need a visit. But when I am trying out a new author, or buying some easy reading, trashy romance, one off novels I have seen recommended, I now buy them on my e-reader.

This way I can start collecting the new series if I like it, all in an e-book. And if I don’t want to read them again or I felt it was ok but not worthy of a place on my beautiful oak shelves, I can keep it without having to lose the space for something better. If it’s good enough, I will go and buy the paperback later.

2. Choice

When I went on holiday before the e-reader came out, I would pack my back with 6 or 7 books. That’s about the justifiable limit weight wise, before I have to consider taking out some clothes. On holiday, relaxing with nothing to do but read all day, 6 or 7 books lasts about a week. Really. I read fast.

And the problem with choosing books at the start of a holiday is that by the time I get there, I might be in the mood for something else. I may have taken a big fat trilogy, but once I am relaxing I may be in the mood for light humour.

Now I take my e-reader, and I have half of my library with me. I have choice.

3. Speed

If someone recommends a book that they really think I will enjoy, or I see a comment whilst browsing that entices me into reading more, I would have to wait until I could get to a shop, or buy online and wait for the postman. I am a very impatient person.

Now I can buy a book online and be reading it within minutes. Happy me.

4. Weight

My e-reader fits in my pocket. When I am travelling by bus or going to sit in a waiting room for an extended time., my e-reader travels with me. It’s smaller than an average book and certainly thinner, so I don’t have to carry a bag.

5. Encouraging new readers

OK – not so much a pro for my own benefit. But I know of 3 children already, friends children and my own nephew, who would never dream of picking up a book. So BORING. But an electronic gadget. Well – that’s cool. My nephew read a book voluntarily for the first time after he got his own e-reader. He is 8. If it gets kids reading, I think it’s worth investing in.

And to be fair – now for some of the reasons not to like e-readers.

1. Wet

It’s always a little worrying taking my reader into the bath with me. If a book gets wet, you can dry it. If an e-reader gets wet, that’s a lot of money just dunked in the bubbles. Annoying as it is when you are lazing by the pool and some random belly flop launches a tidal wave over your page, a book doesn’t break. An e-reader – well I don’t think they are waterproof yet.

2. Monopoly

My first e-reader was a BeBook. I refused to go for the Sony due to the price, or the Kindle because they only let you buy books from them. I like to shop about on the internet and go for a good price. I don’t want to be told where to buy my books.

But – my Bebook had it’s faults. Downloading updates to the software invariable took many attempts and hours of frustration. I never did work out how to make it display different formats, so I was limited to .prc – whatever that means. And when I bought a book, it was locked to the one reader. What if I broke my Bebook or lost it. Would I have to visit all the online shops and download them again. What if they had no record of my purchase.

What if I updated to a new device – as I have done. Now I have a load of books on one device I cannot transfer over to the other. I don’t want to buy them again, so I have an out of date BeBook I have to keep and charge up if I want to re-visit a story, half the buttons no longer work and every so often it jumps 30 odd pages in one bound.

In the end I caved, I went and got a Kindle. OK – now I have to buy from Amazon. But they keep all of my books ‘in the cloud’ and I can download them all easily if I ever update my machine.

3. Sharing

As a child I hated to lend out my books. Now as an adult I don’t mind allowing trusted friends to borrow a copy – as long as I know who has it and make sure I can get it back. But you can’t share an e-book, unless you want to hand over your Kindle to someone else for a while.

4. Cost

Not just the cost of the device! When I buy paperbacks, I can see how much the total in my basket is growing and exercise some self control. Limit my spending. But with my e-reader, it is so easy to just use the ‘one-click buy’ option and have it downloading immediately. One at a time. So I forget how much I have now spent. It just doesn’t feel like real money, if you don’t actually have to enter your card details.

5. Debates

The book versus e-reader discussion is never ending. Some readers love them, some are sure this is the end of the paperback. Did I mention I’m impatient? Change the topic already.

Just let it go people. Technology may move on, gadgets may be the must have item. But a serious book lover will always cherish the feel of a good book in the hand and enjoy browsing through their own shelves on display.

There is a place for both – and I do like my e-reader.




DPchallenge – I blame the parents!

As my mother once said at a christening when asked if she wanted to hold the baby of the moment, I don’t really like children except for my own.

Gasp. Shock. Am I allowed to say that, if I am a mother?

Well, perhaps my feelings are not as stringent as that. I do like children that are fun and friendly, that can talk without being precocious and play without destruction.

Children should be approached like unknown animals! Treat them with respect and get to know their quirks before you scare them into pee’ing on the carpet or biting your hand.

Don’t poke the animals. They bite.

I’m only kidding. Well, maybe.

Children are people with personalities, feelings, worries and learned behaviours, just like adults. Learned behaviours are often taught by observation so, as a generalisation, should we assume that badly behaved children have learnt such behaviour from their parents?

A child cannot be expected to instinctively know how to act politely at a dining table or to walk calmly and quietly in a museum. They do not understand that they should give up their seat on a bus for the elderly or turn off their mobile in a theatre. Manners and consideration for others are taught through example and explanation. I think that we often forget that, whilst complaining about the way children behave ‘today’ and resenting them for the noise they make.

Does this mean I think children should be allowed to go everywhere an adult can go? No, I don’t.

Take a restaurant, for example. I spend the day with my children and when I go out in the evening for a meal with my husband, that is adult time. That is when I want to enjoy his company without being interrupted by the ‘cuteness’ of the small child flicking their peas at me from another table or being unable to hear the conversation due to the screeching of an over tired or over stimulated baby.

However that doesn’t mean children should not be allowed out to a restaurant after dark. But there are intimate restaurants where I would expect only grown ups to be and family orientated places I would not book if I didn’t expect to hear children. Although I still believe the adult with that child should be exerting some control over them and setting the example of the behaviour they want to see. A child climbing on the table or thumping the back of your chair whilst you sip your red wine is one that is being allowed to by a grown up.

Or consider a museum. The function of a museum is surely to educate and therefore great places for children to visit. Of course they should be there; but not rampaging about the halls disturbing others. Not, mind you, that I agree that you should whisper in such hallowed halls. Talking is allowed, bellowing is not.

Please do not climb on the displays!

Common sense in parenting?

In many cases I think the key is not whether children should be allowed in an adult-orientated place but that, if a place is adult-orientated, is it firstly suitable for children and secondly, has the child been taught the appropriate behaviour for such a place?

Common sense should surely prevail. Children should go to films made for children, not the movies specified for adults full of violence or terror. Go for a pub lunch, but take them home before the evening drinkers arrive for a saturday night session! You cannot expect other adults to mute their language or ribald jokes because you have brought a child into their evening, yet nor should you want your child exposed to adult themes.

Of course there are venues that are not suitable for children due to the nature of the place – friday night in the town centre for example. There are plays on at the theatre that were not made for children to hear – the Vagina Monologues are a good case (I saw it recently, but that’s another post).

But there are also places that are down to the discretion of the parent. A father should be able to judge if their child is ready to display the appropriate behaviour in an expensive restaurant at lunchtime. A mother has to make her own decision as to whether her child is of the right age to attend a beauty salon.

I do ‘blame the parents’.

Or rather, I do believe the parent is nominally responsible for their child. Of course children have so many outside influences on them, from teachers, school friends, television, films and magazines. But the main and constant factor in their life is their parents (or responsible adult).

The parent demonstrates from their own example how to behave at the dining table at home. I know, from our own mistakes in this! We spent the first few years of my daughter’s life without a family table to sit down together at and teaching her table manners has been a hard slog as we sought to instill them from a late start.

Family dinner time teaches table manners

You could argue that you cannot ‘practice’ behaving quietly in a museum. But I would disagree. Start with the weekly trip to the supermarket. My kids began by learning that they were to walk with me and not disappear at top speed down the aisles. I have a particularly strong memory of re-capturing my daughter aged 3 and carrying her kicking and screaming while I marched out, red faced and no doubt watched by a large tutting audience. But you know what, she now knows to walk calmly and not sprint off when pre-warned of what is expected of her. I have no concerns about taking her to other public places.

And after all that . . .

No, children should not be in adult-orientated places. But defining what is an adult-orientated place could be difficult except for the most obvious few. So perhaps it would be better to say that when in a place that is aimed mainly at adults the child should be able to behave in a non-intrusive manner. And don’t expect the adults to adjust their behaviour because you brought your precious bundle of joy into their child free time.

Written for the DP Challenge. Weekly Writing Challenge.