Reasons Why Writers Should Love E-Books

Photo: Research with highlighter

by Alton Gansky

Easily accessible E-books have been around for a decade and a half. The process and invention go back a little more than that, but the real surge came in the early 2000s. Since then, digital publishing has become a mainstay for publishers, indies, and writers. Several times a year, someone writes an article about how 1) e-books are crushing print books, or 2) how print books are crushing e-books. At the end of the discussion, however, both sides still agree that there are a lot of e-books being published.

Writers should love e-books. In fact, (don’t throw stones until you’ve finished this paragraph), for writers e-books are superior to print books. I’m not talking about publishing e-books. That’s a topic for another time and probably one best handled by a different writer. I’m talking about e-books used to help your work-in-progress.

Yes, I know that there remains a debate about the superiority of physical books. The pleasure, the feel, even the smell satisfies the avid reader more than digital ink. The debate seems silly to me and reminds me of the couple who argue over which is better, salt or pepper. I leave such jawing to others. I want to present my belief that e-books are to be valued by any writer that has to do research to make his/her work-in-progress the best it can be. Here’s what I mean:

  1. Never be without material to read. This is me stating the obvious first. One great advantage to e-books is that the writer can carry around a library in a single device. This means that those books you use for research or inspiration are always within reach. I have apps on my iPhone, iPad (several iPads actually—don’t judge me). Those apps include Kindle, Nook, and iBooks. If I’m waiting at the dentist or the auto shop (don’t ask, it’s too sad for words) I can continue my research. I have scores of physical books on various topics. I can’t imagine carrying them with me when I go somewhere. With digital books, I can do just that.
  2. Cheaper research. E-books are more often than not cheaper to purchase than their physical counterparts. If you’re having to do a lot of research on say, WWII American submarines, then you can drop several pretty pennies on some of the books you’ll need. The price of one hardbound book can be used to buy several e-books (not always, but frequently).
  3. Makes you a better interviewee. Like you, I’ve spent a great deal of time doing radio interviews. This was especially true for my books 60 People Who Shaped the Church and 30 Events That Shaped the Church. I’ve also done a large number of interviews for my novels. Since I ain’t all that smart, I like to have notes in front of me. I have found having an e-book version before me lets me run down the info I need.
  4. More efficient reading. 
    • Highlighting. I love the highlighting function of e-books. Sure, you can highlight a physical book. I’ve marked up a great many of those. The point is: An e-book allows the writer to highlight some important bit of info needed in her work-in-progress. Especially when one considers the next item:
    • Highlight summary. Most e-readers not only allow digital highlighting but will display every highlight as a list, making it remarkably easy to find what you’re looking for.
    • Search function. This is a real time saver. Ever wonder why e-books don’t have indexes? They don’t need them. No index is easier to use than a Find function in an e-book. Recall a word or two of a line you read? Search for it and the reader will find all words that match your search and say, “Here ya go, would you like some cookies too?” Okay, maybe the cookie thing is a fantasy, but the rest of my statement is true.

Well, that’s a start. Can you think of other ways e-books can help you with your current project?

Alton Gansky is the author of 50 books, fiction and nonfiction. He is also the co-host of Firsts in Fiction podcast.

Alton Gansky