There are lots of reasons not to buy an e-book. The foremost one is that you’re not much of a reader – if you aren’t, then it’s no more than a brick, a money-costing device you won’t use.

Price isn’t much of a reason any more, now that e-books start at $139 (for the cheapest Kindle; I am sure others will match that price point soon). If you are a reader and you buy new or used books then the cost of one will amortize quickly, because new ebooks are generally a bit cheaper than paper books and then there are all the many free ones. If you are a reader and you don’t buy books, then the point is moot because one of the conditions below should apply. (And if they don’t – if you don’t have a library of some sort available, whether a public one or borrowing from friends – then I feel sorry for you, because it sucks to have a book habit and no books.)

Assuming that you are a reader, reasons not to buy an e-book include:

  • You don’t primarily read in English (there are books available in other languages, but I don’t think there are enough at this moment to justify purchase
  • You have an excellent English-language bookstore nearby and pleanty of time and money to patronize it
  • OR

  • You have an excellent English-language library nearby and you have time and transportation to go there
  • OR

  • Paying and waiting for shipping of online orders is no problem (obviously less likely to apply if you don’t have a local version of Amazon or equivalent)
  • You have plenty of room to store all the books you want to have around
  • You have no problems with transporting books, meaning you don’t travel a lot, you don’t feel the need to have more than one book with you on your errands, you don’t move often, and you don’t have to carry a lot of textbooks
  • You don’t tend to do anything with your hands – cook, eat, brush your teeth, knit, crochet – while reading. It’s possible to do most of those with a paper book, but it’s much easier with an e-book that doesn’t have to be held open and whose pages can be turned by bumping a button.
  • You either don’t care about reading the thousands of free and sometimes out-of-print books available on the Gutenberg project or elsewhere online, or you don’t mind reading on a computer screen.
  • You don’t have any vision issues that require you to be able to increase type size or to listen to books instead of reading them.
  • If all of the above conditions apply to you OR if this one does

  • You prefer paper books so strongly that you are willing to deal with any purchasing, storage or carrying issues they give you.

then an e-book doesn’t make sense for you. That’s perfectly reasonable; I don’t believe trendiness is a good reason to do anything you don’t want to do, and it’s silly to buy a gadget you don’t want or need. However, I’m getting a little tired of “real book lovers like paper” comments. I give fair notice that I’m going to react to comments like that by assuming the commenter doesn’t have either the imagination or the empathy to realize that other people’s life circumstances or preferences might be different than their own.

If anyone about to embark on an expat lifestyle to ask me which two items in my possession have made the biggest contributions to my quality of life these last several years, I’d have to name the Diva Cup and the Kindle. Neither one is appropriate for everyone – most obviously, between males, women above and below childbearing age, women who don’t menstruate for other reasons, and women who for some other reason can’t use them, the Diva Cup is no use to the majority of the human race. But for those who have need of either item, they can change your life.