Books have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I come from a family of voracious readers. My parents are retired school teachers and there were always books, magazines, and newspapers in our house. I remember being read to as a child and couldn’t wait until I was able to read for myself, starting with Golden Books, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Uncle Wiggily, Little House series, and oh so many more I can’t even remember them all. My parents censored what movies and television shows I watched, but they never censored my reading. While I wasn’t allowed to watch The Exorcist, I was allowed to read it; the same with Helter Skelter and In Cold Blood. But I also read, by choice, such classics as The Scarlet Letter, Silas Marner, The House of Seven Gables, and, of course, poetry.
And for as long as I can remember, I have made up stories. Not in the naughty child sense, although I’m sure that probably happened a time or two when I’d been caught doing something I wasn’t supposed to, but out of the desire to share with others all those characters living in my imagination. The desire to explore the places I knew certainly must exist outside my own little world.
As for the question of e-books or traditional, I read them both. I love my Kindle for travel. I love how it doesn’t close and make me lose my place should I fall asleep while reading (not an unusual occurrence). However, I would never take my Kindle into the bathtub with me. For bubble baths I tend to stick to magazines. They’re light weight, I can hold them in one hand, leaving the other free to hold my wine, and if a magazine does by chance fall into the water I’m not going to cry or get angry.
My Kindle is great when I want to read something particularly trashy and don’t want everyone in the airport or the park to know, such as Fifty Shades of Grey (book 1 only, too trashy even for me). My Kindle is perfect when I decide it’s time to read a great Russian novel like War and Peace or Anna Karenina because it’s not near as heavy as the traditional print version. But when I’m researching my current work-in-progress, or something I might want to write in the future, I need to have a traditional book so I can highlight passages and write notes in the margin and dog-ear important pages. I know you can do all these things with an e-reader, or so I’ve heard, but it’s not the same. And studying maps, diagrams, and charts just doesn’t work as well on an e-reader, especially if you have to flip back and forth to refer to them while reading.
When the sale of e-readers and e-books began to take off, the media predicted traditional publishing houses would soon be a thing of the past. No one would want printed books when they could get the same thing in a lighter, cheaper, electronic version in a blink of an eye, with just the push of a button. Why go out into traffic and/or bad weather to find your nearest Barnes & Noble when you could sit back with your bunny-slippered feet propped up all warm and comfortable while you drink wine (I’m beginning to see a pattern here) with one hand and browse your e-reader store with the other. You can make a selection, press the “buy now” button and there it is, ready to be enjoyed without having to leave your home.
Then the great publishing apocalypse never happened. The traditional publishing houses are all going strong. I could quote you statistics on the matter, but you can Google those for yourself if you’re that interested in the numbers. Suffice it to say, I am not the only person who continues to read print books while also enjoying my e-reader. Plus, e-books have opened up the publishing world to a much wider range of writers. While some, if truth be told, would be better off waiting until they’ve honed their skills a little more before making their debut, most are gems who would never even get noticed, never get read, because they’re not quite good enough for the big houses.
As for our young readers, the children just being introduced to the world of books, I believe we should stick to print. Let them feel the paper in their hands, smell it, experience the beautiful art work in all its brightly printed glory. They spend enough time in front of digital screens.