Why I Love Ebooks, Part 2

In Part 1 of this topic, I talked about how moving overseas (and being separated from my favorite tomes) made me a huge fan of ebooks.

Even before I moved, however, I was growing weary of physical books. I didn’t like how everything I read seemed to stick around on my bookshelf. Consequently, I committed to get rid of (resell, pass on, or donate) books directly after I’d finished them. I’m a fast reader, though, so in many cases books would leave my house just a day or two after I purchased them! That didn’t feel quite right either.

To compound the problem, the town I lived in (before moving to the UK) was NOT part of the county’s library system (!). Therefore, borrowing a book from the library involved borrowing a friend or relative’s library card, and going to their town to browse the stacks. (And being particularly diligent about returning books on time, lest they incur late fees!) Oftentimes, it seemed more trouble than it was worth.

Unfortunately, these two factors greatly curtailed my reading. There were plenty of new, nonfiction titles I wanted to read, but instead I made do with what I could read online at Project Gutenberg. I simply didn’t want to own any more books, or go through the hassle of acquiring, then reselling or donating them.

Therefore, I was thrilled when Amazon released the Kindle-for-PC reader last fall. I downloaded it the day it came out, purchased a few titles I’d been longing to read, and felt like I was in touch with the literary world again!

Mostly, however, I wanted to be able to read ebooks while traveling. I often take long flights and train rides, and relish those hours of uninterrupted reading time. But I travel carryon only, so the weight and volume of books always presented a problem. The titles I took on a trip would be determined by page count and font density (in an effort to find the longest, yet lightest-weight book), rather than what I really wanted to read. (Although, as a result, I became quite well-read in Russian classics!)

I considered purchasing a Kindle or Sony Reader, but didn’t want to carry yet another electronic device. I always take my iPod on the road, so decided to replace my Nano with a Touch—that way, I could have just one device for both music and books. I downloaded the apps for Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and general reading, and it’s worked out beautifully; I can read on the Touch for hours with no problem, and it’s much smaller and lighter than a dedicated ereader. Better yet, it’s always with me: so I can read on the bus, on the subway, while waiting for appointments, etc. I even curl up in bed with it at night!

Going forth, my goal is to purchase as few physical books as possible. I plan to use a combination of the library (to which I now have access!) and ebooks for all my literary needs. In the future, I’d love to see the following:

1. Lower prices on ebooks, given the absence of manufacturing and distribution costs.

2. The ability to borrow ebooks from the library.

3. A secondhand (“used”) market for ebooks, which would allow me to sell my “ownership” of one to someone else, at a reduced price.

4. The ability to share or trade the ebooks I own with friends and family.

5. Ereaders that can display color photographs and pictures, so that art, architecture, and other graphic-intensive books can be read digitally.

That doesn’t sound like too much to ask, does it? ;-)

Anyway, I love how technology is making it easier (and more fun!) to be a minimalist—and I’m looking forward to what the future holds!

41 comments to Why I Love Ebooks, Part 2

  • The first part of this post inspired me to ditch a few physical books that are available online through Project Gutenberg, so thank you! I’m now six books lighter.

    Some libraries already allow you to borrow ebooks–the Austin, Texas, public library for one–though I’m not sure if they can be read on a Kindle.

    • miss minimalist

      Way to go, Working Rachel! I love how, thanks to Project Gutenberg, it’s no longer necessary to have bookshelves full of classics.

  • Hmm . . .I never considered e-books before as I stated previously, but it would be nice to have access to more non-fiction. Buying new ‘toys’ is something I try not to do–but maybe buying a new toy as a way of avoiding future book purchases. I too have been missing the good non-fiction read and I actually cracked and bought myself a book again in December–it was so fascinating, but I can’t just buy a book every time I’m curious about a topic or I’ll be buried in books (and that much poorer). Your posting has lead me to consider something I used to just rule out.

    • miss minimalist

      Hi Trish! When it comes to non-fiction, ebooks are usually less than the hardcover/paperback price (though certainly not cheap). I try to limit my purchases to books I can’t get at the library, or want to keep for reference.

  • Great post! I’m waiting for my iTouch to arrive in the mail. I’ve been considering purchasing a Touch for the last year and finally decided to go for it. I read a lot too and I think the kindle app will make my life so much easier. :) Plus the touch will carry my music and photography portfolio.

    I’m looking forward to what the future holds too. :)

  • Mneiae

    I love my Kindle, but I just gifted it to someone for Christmas. I live across the street from a library, so I decided to take the plunge.

    1. There are lower prices. Amazon actually makes a loss on several NYT bestsellers because of this.

    2. This already exists. You need a library card, but there are a few libraries that have this system in place.

    3. I want this too. It’s one of the main problems with selling e-textbooks: no resale. Great for medical and law students who go back to their books, but bad for Geology 101 taken to fulfill the science requirement.

    4. B & N put this on the Nook.

    5. They’re working on this. There’s already a prototype of the color Kindle, but they’re still refining it.

  • I do want to note, that while I love reading books on my Touch, some folks get taken aback when they realize that they can only read about a paragraph at a time before having to flip pages, due to the smaller screen than the Kindle.

    What I am waiting for is something similar to come out on the Droid. I would like to have my phone, music library and books all on one device, but my wife flatly refuses to let us switch of Verizon to AT&T.

    So I bought the Droid thinking that the Kindle app for it was inevitable but I’m still waiting…

    – Charley

    • miss minimalist

      Good point about the smaller screen, Charley. (Personally, it’s never bothered me; however, I can see how some people might not like the smaller format of the Touch, especially if they have eyesight issues.)

      I would love to have my phone, music, and books on one device, too! However, I’m not quite ready to pay for a data plan for the iPhone, etc. (I just wouldn’t use it enough to justify the cost.)

  • They’re coming out with e-readers that can have coloured e-ink!

    I’m definitely waiting for that day.

    I would also like to add that having a built in light on the reader would be uber helpful when reading in low-lit ares or in the dark..

    And the price at $300 is too high for me, considering that the books cost $10 to purchase. Each. Again, as I used to own the physical copy.

    • miss minimalist

      Hi Everyday Minimalist! I’m also delaying the purchase of a dedicated ereader, until there’s one that’s non-proprietary and displays color images.

      Actually, both the Kindle and iPod Touch have backlights, so you can read in the dark without disturbing others (great on overnight flights when you can’t sleep!).

  • lower prices on ebooks! you got it there, that would be nice.

    one of the best moves that i made during our minimalizing process was ridding my office of hard-cover books that i longer used. in many ways they were keeping my thoughts in the past rather than looking to the future for new solutions.

    • miss minimalist

      Thanks for your comment, becoming minimalist! If I have to buy a physical book, I do everything I can to avoid hardcover ones. :-) I’m glad to hear you lightened your library!

  • Mia

    “I love how technology is making it easier (and more fun!) to be a minimalist”

    Amen to that! As a minimalist, I feel so blessed to be living in this century. Can’t imagine life without the Internet, e-mail, electronic files, Google, Wikipedia etc. anymore!

    • miss minimalist

      I’m with you, Mia–so much knowledge and information, and so many communication options, at our fingertips! And particularly useful when you lead a nomadic lifestyle. :-)

  • MC

    hey! that’s fine – you spare a device – but you can’t replace e-ink.
    That’s why all those e-book readers are so nice so you can read for hours without eye stress.

    • miss minimalist

      Hi MC! I’ve heard great things about e-ink, and will likely purchase an ereader someday (just waiting for color images and non-proprietary format). In the meantime, I’ve been pretty happy reading on my PC and Touch, and haven’t really experienced any eye stress (at least not consciously!).

  • I’d like to see ereaders (and most small electronics in general) be more like computers; in that you buy a device, and then you choose what services to put on it, what programs to use, and what internet provider you’ll go with. None of this “if you want to use Device X you have to go with Company Y” junk. If I got a Nook or a Sony, I’d want to be able to buy from Amazon.com.

    I included you in my list of awesome bloggers to watch in 2010!

    • miss minimalist

      Caitlin, I couldn’t agree more–I think all formats, services, programs, etc. should run on all devices. It would certainly simplify things!

      Thanks so much for including me in your “bloggers to watch” post; what a wonderful honor! :-)

  • Duncan

    Hi Miss Minimalist.

    Have you heard about the new ebook reader/tablet computer that Apple released on Wednesday the 27th?

    It’s called the iPad and it looks awesome!


    I would describe it to you but the video on the website does a better job than I could.
    My wife and I are so definately having one (or two!) in our family.

    Thank you for the advice and your website.
    We are working on becoming minimalism experts with your help.
    Thank you.

    • miss minimalist

      Thanks for your comment, Duncan! The Apple iPad certainly looks promising, particularly for color ebooks and textbooks (would have *loved* this as a college student!). I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this… :-)

  • Red

    Wow! What a great post! I haven’t become a fan of the digital book movement because I can’t imagine staring at a computer screen for the same length of time that I stare at the pages of a book. Similarly, I don’t want to purchase an eReader or upgrade my iPod for books when it’s perfectly free for me to check books out from the local library and read them that way. If it wouldn’t cost any extra money, I might look into digital books more.

    However, I hadn’t checked out Project Gutenberg before reading this. I’ve found Picture of Dorian Gray (which I’ve been meaning to read for years) so I’m going to test out reading a book from a computer screen to see how I do with it.

    Still, I won’t be converted any time soon. The best reason to read books in their physical form is that it’s free, while digital copies of books are not yet available through our local library, and toting a laptop around instead of a book doesn’t seem like a viable option. :)

    • miss minimalist

      Thanks, Red — you bring up some great points! I agree, buying digital books can certainly get expensive; I can’t wait for the day I can get them from the library. :-)

  • crunicorn

    I’ve been researching ebook readers over the last few days and am deciding between a kindle and a sony. What I have discovered is that in the UK (don’t know about the US) you can borrow ebooks from libraries for the Sony and that the Kindle is going to allow fellow kindle oweners to lend thier books to each other – so maybe someone took notice of your wish list above!!!

    New to you blog and working my way through your posts. Loving it all and hope to start decluttering soon!!!

  • Garo

    I must say thay you have a very inspirational place! Thank you for sharing your world :)

    On the e-books topic, if really kindle books are cheaper (as they should be) than those in print, why is your book “The Joys of Less” more expensive for kindle as visible on Amazon?

    Other than that, I haven’t been able to read the entire blog (but I’m getting there!), how do you think your minimalist life will be changed when having a baby? If you thought about it, of course.

    • miss minimalist

      Hi Garo! Actually, the Kindle version ($9.99) is less expensive than the print version ($12.95, currently discounted by Amazon to $11.65).

  • Krissie

    I just LOVE my books… but relocating soon means I want to rationalise volume of printed books.
    1. just beginning to consider the e-book option and yet to get my head around the kindle / Nook / PC options…
    2. My question: I like(ed) to highlight, asterisk, etc on (my) pages (anyone miss this, or, is this feature available?e
    3. Agree with ‘Becoming Minimalist’ (Jan15) holding onto my hardcopy text books is holding onto dated data

    (I use/d the excuse that I am a school teacher/corp trainer to justify holding onto ‘resources’ – please be kind!)

  • denise

    I too travel a lot and would be in “panic” mode if I did not have my back up books. I have kindle for iPhone and can’t remember how I lived without it! With the kindle it is very easy to keep your favorite books around and reread whenever you feel the need.
    Krissie, regarding highlighting, you can with Kindle for iPhone and it is super easy. You can even recall all of your highlights so that they are easy to review.

  • Pam

    I bought a Nook Color when Barnes & Noble released it in November. I had been using my iPhone as an eReader, and still use it as a backup if I find myself out somewhere with some time on my hands. Although the iPhone actually isn’t a bad little ereader, I wanted something a little larger, and it had to be backlit because I read in low light conditions. The Nook Color fulfills at least 3 of your wishes:

    2. The ability to borrow ebooks from the library. (I have not done this yet myself, but it purports to.)

    4. The ability to share or trade the ebooks I own with friends and family. (Choices are still limited, and I am hoping that more publishers will grant permissions to share ebooks, even if on the currently limited basis.)

    5. Ereaders that can display color photographs and pictures, so that art, architecture, and other graphic-intensive books can be read digitally. (Nook Color does a beautiful job of this!)

    To answer an earlier question, the Nook Color (and probably other ereaders as well, allows you to highlight passages, make notes, set bookmarks, etc.) With the Nook Color, you can even highlight a passage and then post it to your Facebook status.

    And I LOVE the fact that I’m not adding to my bookshelves!

  • Narwagner

    My ultimate minimalist possession: my computer = books*, news, movies, weather, TV episodes, music, camera, audio recording, email, chat, Skype, keeping up with friends, games, 100% of my job, bill paying, banking, taxes, purchasing, cookbooks, writing, learning, reading about minimalism, and more. All in one object that’s 15″ by 11″ by 1″. And it’s white, too.

    (*I use Adobe Digital Editions on a Mac.)

  • Em

    How do you reconcile the fact that ebooks consume energy throughout their life while printed books do not? You must constantly power an ebook, read it using a computer or reader (which = more carbon emissions)and you can’t loan it to a friend. Plus, what happens if you lose your reader or it gets damaged?

  • amy

    a wonderful way to maintain the literature industry without the manufacture and distribution cost is to have a book “rent”, instead of for free, so we can still support writers. One can pay a rent for a certain amount of days in advance, with a cost/day type of thing!

  • Annie Kwan

    Looks like most of these wishes have come true! Your site helped me rediscover my library. I get everything from books, magazines, dvds, cds to workout videos from there. I was very excited when Kindle and the library combined powers to allow us to borrow library books straight onto our E-readers.

    I love reading your website, especially because being a girly-girl and a minimalist is not easy – but you do it with such style!

  • Megan W.

    Idk if you’ve considered it yet, but have you thought of a Kindle Fire? It’s small (only 7″) and also does magazines and web browsing really well. Also, it’s a lot cheaper than an iPad mini, though those are pretty neat too!

  • Tina

    The only books I own are instruction books for various crafts and a few large art books. I got rid of fiction because I could get it from the library, and nonfiction I could also request. When I go to the library, I can look at beautiful books on jewels, paintings, English gardens, and European cathedrals.

  • Ella

    I’m looking into minimalism to help my stress levels. I am an avid reader and really do like reading a lot. So I was wondering, is it okay for minimalists to have a large collection of digital books and games etc.? Especially if it brings them a type of happiness?

  • I love my library! I use it for books, DVDs, and online magazines, books, and now they’re streaming videos!
    I have the kindle app on my iphone and ipad mini – but I have too many books and looking at the content on the app is overwhelming so I never read e-books anymore.

    Any advice for me on how to organize ebooks (or just delete most of them?) so that I am happier using the app and not avoiding it?

    Somehow over the last two years, I’ve obtained 150 books. Too, too many! They must have been free or cheap so I kept adding them to my kindle library! Help!

  • I am down to one shelf of books. I gave away most of my Mom’s. I have one shelf for my sister. I have craft books and some novels to read again and then give away. I got a British gardening magazine while on vacation. I will probably keep it for a while and then pass it on. I am doing another class on things to make with found objects– greeting cards, string, ribbon, etc. I provide all the materials. I make a lot of collages and do a lot of found object sculpture. When my kids were young, we seldom bought toys but made a lot of houses and furniture and garages for their dolls, action figures, and vehicles.

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