For many, nothing can beat the feel, touch and smell of a real book. Books are tangible objects — a person can feel them in his or her hands and turn the pages, even write in the books if one wishes. With the growing popularity of e-readers and digital downloading, many area residents are now choosing to read books with an e-reader.
An e-reader is a device that resembles a small computer screen. It is light, portable, and incorporates wireless technology.
These devices are mainly used to download books, but many also use them to access the Internet, play games, read magazines and newspapers, as well as watch television shows and movies.
Digital book pages are very similar to regular book pages, but instead of turning the pages, a swipe across the screen with one’s finger leads to the next page. There are also options that allow the reader to zoom in, mark text for later access, and some e-readers even have a built-in dictionary feature.
Most owners of e-readers purchase books online and download them to their devices, but there are free books available as well.
Mount Airy Public Library patrons have access to many free digital books for multiple devices, including digital audio books. The Surry Community College library also offers e-book downloads for staff and students.
Impact on local bookstores
Sandy Gwynn, of Pages Bookstore in downtown Mount Airy, said some customers have mentioned their preference for traditional books over reading books on their e-reader devices.
Gwynn said that “some older customers and parents with young children have mentioned they don’t like the e-readers because they hurt their eyes.”
Other customers who still prefer traditional books include those who purchase books because they want to be able to mark the text and bookmark pages for easy access later, such as high school students who are buying books for their honor classes. Also, children’s books are usually preferred over the digital versions because the illustrations are more appealing on the printed page.
The impact on business has been noticeable for Gwynn, but mainly with hardcover books. Most books are first released in a hardcover edition, which is more expensive than the paperback edition. In addition, the paperback edition is often released months or even a year after the hardcover. The new release timeline for books once boosted the sales of the more expensive, hardcover editions, because customers did not want to wait for the paperback release.
Now, with the convenience of e-readers and digital downloads, Gwynn said the sales of the new release hardcover editions have dropped.
Some Pages Bookstore customers will only buy hardcover books because they prefer the look of that type of book on their shelves, but others without aesthetic preferences are now digitally purchasing the first release through their e-readers due to the cheaper prices.
A parent’s perspective
Stephanie Combs has an e-reader, but she prefers to read an actual, physical book. Self-described as an traditional parent who still wants to make technology available to her two sons, Dalton, 9, and Gage, 5, Combs prefers for her kids to read a real book instead of use their e-readers.
After her sons asked Santa Claus for e-readers, Combs and her husband decided it was OK for Santa to fulfill this wish, but Combs and her husband have always monitored the use of the devices.
“I believe it is beneficial for learning, and now they do read more because they have their e-readers,” Combs said. “They love their e-readers and would probably use them all the time, if I let them, especially my youngest son.” She still insists that her sons read regular books and the family visits the library frequently.
For her personal reading preference, Combs loves having books in her home, although she sometimes uses an e-reader in situations such as at night, when she does not want to wake anyone by leaving her light on.
“I am a reader and I like to keep the books that I read — I may highlight certain passages or write in the margins. I love the idea that my kids will have my books one day and they can flip through them and see what I thought or felt about certain passages. I love how a bookcase looks and it is part of my home decor. I will always have a stack of favorite books on my nightstand.”
Combs and her husband encourage their kids to “slow down” and enjoy being a kid, through activities like playing outside and sitting down to enjoy a good book without the aid of technology.
Sally Surratt Reece has two daughters, 7-year-old Kinlee and 9-year-old Paxton. Reece has an e-reader that she purchased almost a year ago because she was looking for a certain book to read, but it was not available locally and she did not want to wait on a copy to arrive in the mail.
Reece said she is reading more than ever now that she has an e-reader and she loves the free books that are available through many different avenues, including the library. Her daughters increased their reading time as well and they also use their e-readers to play games and access the Internet.
Reece mentioned that both daughters have taken their e-readers to school when the teacher allows them to bring them in for free-reading time, although she also said that it is entirely up to the teacher; some teachers allow students to bring their e-readers and laptops or tablets on a daily basis.
Another bonus of owning an e-reader, according to Reece, is the convenience of ordering a new book as soon as a person is finished with the last one. This is convenient for those who are reading books in a series, which her daughter, Paxton, enjoys.
As a Daisy Girl Scout leader, Reece also uses her e-reader to help with the topics and tasks for her scout troop because she is able to access information and books quickly. During Tuesday’s girl scout meeting, Reece used her e-reader to read a story about bullying to her scouts.
Library Digital Downloads
In response to the increase in popularity, the Mount Airy Public Library held several e-book and digital audio book download demonstration sessions over the past couple of months.
Angela Llewellyn of the Mount Airy Public Library said there was a large turnout for the first session, with more than 20 attendees. The second session brought in around 15 people.
“We do have traditionalists who come in and say they prefer the weight and smell of the books, but we also have quite a few people interested in downloading the books for their computers or e-readers,” said Llewellyn, who believes the popularity of e-readers and downloadable books has actually brought in new library patrons.
“It is a way to reach a section of the community who might not come in and check out actual books.”
The Mount Airy Public Library is offering another chance for anyone who is interested in learning about the e-book downloads by hosting a demonstration session on Monday. Those who are interested in attending may drop in at any time from 4 to 7 p.m. and are asked to bring their e-reader as well as any cords or passwords that may be needed.
Reach Jessica Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1933.