Love your e-reader? Good: You’re not a book snob

book snobI came across a pretty funny article recently on The Telegraph: “Why book snobs are worse than Kindle fans.” It’s a rather sarcastic and abrasive piece, so prepare yourself now.

The article (which is intentionally hyperbolic) argues that people who hate e-readers and clutch their paperbacks or leather-bound hardcovers dearly to their chests are really materialistic idiots who are against reading itself, not the e-revolution. They think every Kindle or Nook owner bought one to read crappy grocery store aisle romances or widely panned novels like 50 Shades of Grey that they’re too embarrassed and ashamed to read in public, and these same critics bandy about shallow reasons for why print books are better:

No, you can’t proudly display your Kindle library in your dining room, or dash off some awful contrived inscription in the front because you once saw someone do that in a film, but that’s not really what books are for, is it? They’re for reading, and that experience is even better on an electronic machine than in print.

This argument should be the end of it, but it doesn’t satisfy the snobs, because for them books have nothing to do with reading. They are actually material for interior design – bits of incredibly naff “retro chic” pretence, rather than great works of art. Alongside your Smythson writing desk and your collection of vinyls comes a stack of neglected classics, destined to be judged only by their covers. These people should be off buying tweed or lobbying for signatures to join a Pall Mall members club, not lecturing on how to enjoy literature.

It’s a harsh stance, but if you can swallow the scathing remarks, the writer actually makes a good point: All the reasons why we cling to print books over e-books are trivial and petty. What does it matter which is better as long as you’re reading? Do we have to divide ourselves into groups — readers and e-book readers — or can we all just agree that more reading is good?

It’s like complaining that you’re not a “real reader” unless you only devour classics — not stupid popular books like The Hunger Games or Harry Potter. Frankly, I think that’s a pretty snobbish attitude, too. It’s okay not to like the classics. They can be pretty boring at times.

What do you think of the writer’s attack on print-book snobs? Agree or disagree?

9 thoughts on “Love your e-reader? Good: You’re not a book snob”

  1. Your point that either way, people are READING is right on. I personally am getting pretty tired of tirades on almost everything these days. I know people who just love the feel of the pages in their hands as part of the whole experience. They are not snobs. I like that too, sometimes. I like my Kindle as well. It is harder to do the pre-reading techniques we teach on an electronic reader, but it is possible. They really should talk to me about where they start a person on a book. I also like the immediate dictionary feature. And the fact that when I go to sleep, it does and I don’t lose my page. And that I can get a new book immediately. Whatever happened to personal preference? So, I appreciated differences but not tirades.
    —Bonnie James, Advanced Reading Concepts


    1. You’re right — the article is pretty harsh, and in some ways it’s not fair: Not everyone who likes print books better is a “snob.” I still love the feel of a book in my hands, or the smell, but I also appreciate the convenience and features of my Kindle. I’ll keep buying used books, but I also just ordered a Paperwhite. :) So I think as long as we can respect each other’s choices and preferences, we should all get along fine. I like to think that’s what the article is really going for — equality, not snobbishness. But it’s pretty vicious about it.

      It’s funny, though: I keep thinking that one day, when e-readers are more of the norm than they are today, we’ll be that old generation that whines, “In my day, we still got off our butts and *went* to the library!” ;) Like any old person complaint, really. Hee hee.


      1. I must admit that when I went to my class reunion and did a tour of the new high school (built where they tore down mine) the brand new library with what seemed like miles of shelves had only about 50 books in it was pretty darn depressing. When we asked the principal why, he said– don’t need books, everything is electronic! Gasp.


      2. As long as you are reading I frankly don’t care what you are reading the printed words on, even a stone tablet such as Ten Commandments! In all seriousness, just read. What you read on shouldn’t even be an issue. We need to get all of America back to reading to keep their minds full of the written word


  2. I use my e-reader to read free books (digital ARCs and e-library books) and then if I like the book I will buy the physical copy for my glorious, snobby bookshelves in my house. So I guess i’m a little bit of both types of readers. I think the book snobs fail to realize that classic literature is quite easy to get for free on most e-readers! I’ve read at least ten classics on my iPad and didn’t pay a penny.

    I also don’t really get the privileging of these classics over everything else. What’s wrong with reading contemporary literature? Can I not enjoy the value of The Hunger Games AND Crime & Punishment? I can’t handle elitism at that level.


    1. Haha! So e-readers are good choices for frugal book snobs. ;)

      Totally agreed. I think what people fail to realize is that the people who are reading everything they can get their hands on, no matter what it is or where you find it in the bookstore or library (or digital equivalent) — those are the most voracious readers. There are only so many classics, after all! And we benefit by reading more widely, not sticking to a small pool.


  3. Why do some people feel they have to put down others for their choice of books vs ebooks? I don’t get it! I don’t care how others read their books! I do care about how I enjoy reading my books and I like the Kindle App on my iPad. Why are there so many different cars to choose from – so many different books, clothes, coffee, soups, etc? Because we all enjoy different things. What do some people not understand about this. I wish this article was about something that really matters in the grand scheme of life. *sigh*


  4. I learned to read when I was four, and I have read several books a week since then. My father said my back would turn into a bed as I could nearly always be found reading in bed (and still can). I am a classic reader, I love the smell of books, the feel of paper, and I reread my favourites at least once a year. I was worried about ‘converting’, but I absolutely adore my ebook reader. It’s light, it’s easier to prop up in bed, I can read without the light on and not keep my partner awake, and I can carry my whole library with me. And I don’t have to dust it :)

    My bugbears are that the software on ereaders is garbage (if you have a large collection you can’t file books efficiently on any ereader on the market) and the battery doesn’t last long enough. I get really annoyed when companies don’t actually put the number of hours it lasts, but the number of days for an ‘average reader’. Very unhelpful for someone who reads 3-6 hours per day, as apparently the ‘average reader’ reads anywhere from 1-4 hours per week. I do not know how anyone can limit themselves to reading so little!



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