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E-readers, traditional books offer choices

To e-read or not to e-read; that's the question I'm pondering as our Westminster book club begins its monthly meetings this fall.

Once again, I'm assessing the old-fashioned used-to-be's — like turning the pages of a book — versus the new-fangled technology of pressing another button.

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Most of the members of my book club read both and when asked their preferences, some chose traditional books over digital ones, with the library being their first resource. Others preferred the modern mode but also enjoyed some of the advantages of traditional books.

Knowing how many pages are left in a story is one of the reasons book club member Lillian Smith prefers traditional books.

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"Also, though e-books are nice, battery-operated things can run out of power when you least expect them to, like right before a really good part of your book," Smith said.

Another book club member, Connie Kullgren, said she loves her e-reader which enables her to read in a dim light and to adjust the font setting to a level that she can read easily. However, she said she still loves turning the pages of "real books."

For myself, I like that e-readers don't require a rocket scientist to operate them and can be convenient when wanting a book immediately, rather than being on a long wait list at the library.

While I'm on that list, I sometimes resort to ordering used books or paperbacks available on the Internet. Most of the time, I receive my order within days, happy that I saved money. (Incidentally, on several occasions, I was surprised that the digital book was more expensive than the retail price in some stores.)

Sometimes my Internet book doesn't arrive for a few weeks, not allowing me much time to read it before the next meeting. That's when I'm wishing I had borrowed my husband's e-reader, a gift from our son that I often use.

Another fellow book club member, Pat Schulz, enjoys traditional books because "they're easier to read"; however, she did find a particular advantage to reading the digital ones.

"The e-reader is thin and skinny and it will store a lot of books. I had 25 [stored in the e-reader] when I went to Italy. I could read them on the plane, in-between sightseeing and while relaxing at night."

Lack of space is probably another reason some people are switching to digital reading. When I began seeing bookless bookcases in decorating magazines and home-design websites, displaying everything from pictures to pots and pans, I laughed.

Now I understand why.

Still, for me, there's something natural about turning pages and marking my place with my grandson's handmade bookmark — unlike the convenient digital counterpart that automatically holds the page that was last read.

I also like the sensory feel of a book in my hands and the familiar scent of its pages. And I admit I enjoy dog-earing them and making notations — when it belongs to me — to remind me of certain passages.

Lastly, I enjoy disappearing among the vast number of offerings that fill the aisles in the library, tempting me to check out an armload.

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With the advantages and disadvantages of e-readers versus traditional books, I still stand in the middle.

When I'm in a hurry or am traveling, I'll borrow my husband's e-reader if he's not reading it; if I have more time, I'll go to the library or order from the Internet — enjoying the best of both worlds.

Dolly Merritt writes from Westminster.

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