Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Why I won’t buy an e-reader

After last month’s goal of trying to find a suitable e-reader option, I’ve realized that I value real, paper books way too much to give them up. I spend most of my work life staring at a computer screen, so in the rare moments where I get to read for pleasure, I would love to be screen-less. Plus, I love making notes of my thoughts on post-its and placing them throughout the book, or highlighting particularly interesting paragraphs (I know you can do this too with an e-reader, but it’s really not the same when you have to click buttons to do it). There’s just something special about holding a book that an electronic device just can’t match.

Yes that means more cost for books. Yes that means lugging around more weight when traveling. And yes that means having to find space for my books in my place. But, it’s worth it for me because 1) I get most of my books for free via Swagbucks, and 2) if I don’t absolutely love a book after I’m done reading it, I will sell it online, trade it in at a used book store, or give it away. Is anyone else saying “no” to e-readers? Or, am I the only one?

Anyway, over the past few years of using Swagbucks, I’ve earned over $800 worth of Amazon gift cards and cold hard cash (via PayPal). Well this past weekend I put my Swagbucks to good use by purchasing 3 books that I’ve been eyeing – and used Amazon gift cards to make my order free. I love me some free stuff, and am excited to read books and sip tea on the porch of my new townhouse. :)

Here’s what I bought:

  • Irma Voth – by Miriam Toews. I have loved everything by this author, especially her book A Complicated Kindness. Both of these books are about young adults struggling with the complexities of growing up in a Mennonite community. Such an interesting topic, super engaging writing style, and always leaves me wanting the next book. There aren’t many fiction writers that have that affect on me, but Toews is one of them for sure.
  • Debt Free Forever – by Gail Vaz-Oxlade. I don’t think this choice needs any explanation. Just reading the product description makes me so happy: Don’t buy this book if you’re a wuss. Don’t buy this book if you’re a whiner. Don’t buy this book if you hate the idea of doing whatever it takes — no matter how hard — to get out of the mess you made. This book will make you squirm. This book may make you cry. This book is the way to move from the crappy place you are now to a wonderful life where you are in control. Gail Vaz-Oxlade is my hero.
  • Start With Why – Simon Sinek. This was a last-minute choice, but came highly recommended by a few friends. I also read some reviews online and really think that this book will appeal to me. It talks about why some people succeed and others don’t, and how natural ability enables some to inspire those around them to achieve remarkable things.

Yesterday my Realtor gave me a book called Crush It!: Why Now Is The Time To Cash In On Your Passion. We had talked about the book before, so I’m happy that I now have my own copy! I’ve already started reading it, and it looks like a really motivating and inspiring book. Has anyone else read it before?

Also, I am nearly done reading Free at 45 by Tim Stobbs of Canadian Dream. I will write up a review soon, so stay tuned!

I’m still on the hunt for good reads, so has anyone come across any awesome, motivating personal finance books lately?

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. Dave says:

    I have an e-reader but I agree with you that there is something special about holding a book. It's just not the same with an e-reader.
    My recent post Types of Mortgages

  2. Cori says:

    You might enjoy this comic I found a few months ago…

    I personally bought a Nook and I love it for casual reading, however I don't think it will ever replace paper books when doing research or studying. While you can bookmark and highlight, it does require a few clicks and going back to the bookmarks isn't as easy as sticking a pen in the book to hold your place when flipping 100 pages quickly.

    For the casual reading, the eReader is wonderful because I can borrow eBooks from the public library's website and as you mentioned, I'm not carrying as much weight around on vacation (although I had to shut it off during take off and landing). Last month while on vacation I read four books at the pool. I would have never packed that many if I had to physically carry them.
    My recent post Free T-Shirt from Bacardi First 10-000

  3. Kate says:

    I have a really tough time swallowing the price of e-books. For a lot of the books I've looked at, they're selling the e-book for the same price as the paper book, despite not having to pay for ink, printing, different marketing costs, etc. I want authors to get due credit but I really can't bring myself to plonk down 10 bucks per book for a digital file. There also isn't the option for cheap second (or third or fourth) hand books with an e-reader. You buy new every time, or you get the free classics.

    I have loaded my iPod Touch up with the Kindle software and some free classics in case I'm caught on a trip, but I have to admit it doesn't get that much use.

  4. I got the Kobo a few months ago after lots of thought because, like you, I didn't think I would appreciate an e-reader the same way I appreciate books. I decided to get it because I was running out of space to store books and I liked the fact that I could easily borrow books from the library without even leaving the house.

    I was wrong about borrow books from the library being easy… I often have to wait 40 days or more for a book I want. I'm still unsure how a digital file can be 'out'.

    I love traveling with my e-reader though. It's wonderful to take as many books as I like without breaking my bag and the ability to download them whenever I like.
    My recent post Should Your Resume Have a QR Code

  5. byrocat says:

    Being an animemanganut (not my term but think it through for the meaning) and well as being hopelessly addicted to Regency and comedy romances (there! I'm out of the closet on that one!), any super-portable device has to be capable of handling e-books, manga editions and anime videos (MKV format is the norm now). Until the e-reader and tablets can handle all of my requirements, I'm going to keep looking.

    BTW, I still like the feel of the "paper interface" and agree that the marketing model for electronic delivery is skewed on pricing versus channel costs.
    My recent post Getting the Christmas Bonus

  6. Jackie says:

    I received the Nook as a gift for Christmas (I asked for it). It's convenient because you have so many books at your hands, but I prefer real books. With ebooks you can't read the back of the book to find the summary and it's frustrating when you go to read only to find your battery dead.

  7. Jeff M says:

    I really want to like an E-reader, but haven't found a situation that I like yet. I don't like the idea that you can't trade books, with friends, etc.

    However I am going to borrow my girlfriend's Kindle for a while for when I am travelling for work, but I think that it will be only filled with out-of-copyright material.

  8. Miriya says:

    I think the fact that I can't read anything lengthy on a screen before it starts to bother me is one of the few reasons that I don't have an e-reader already. The real reason is that I, too, adore books. My little place right now does not have room for a gazillion bookshelves, but that hardly stops me from buying books when it's reasonably within my means to do so – and to that point, I love used bookstore.
    My recent post Answer me this…

  9. I agree with being screen-less after work! I try to be away from my computer at home as much as possible! :)

    Quick question: what do you do with the books you bought after you finish reading them? I have a lot ><! and i want to keep it but it's taking up a lot of room!
    My recent post Mothers Day – Gifts from the Heart Ideas

    • gmbmfb says:

      If I really love the book, or think I will read it again, I just keep it on my bookshelf. I don't have a lot of books that I absolutely love, so my collection is relatively small. Otherwise, I sell them on Amazon, give them away, or trade them at a used book store.

    • Cori says:

      For my real books, I've been using Paperback Swap ( <-referral link) for ages. Basically, you trade books with others through a network of members. The books trade on a 1:1 ratio so for every book you mail to another member, you'll get one credit to spend on a book. This way you don't have to find one person that wants an exact trade. When you post your first ten books to the site, you get two free just for joining. As for the cost, the site itself is free. You spend money to ship your books but you don't spend any money to order books. You can ship the cheapest way possible so it's normally under $3 a book unless it's a heavy one.

      Some of the more popular books will have a waiting list but the list moves quickly because lots of members are trading those books. I like the site because in a way it's easier than selling your books and you'll not paying a commission to sites like Amazon.
      My recent post Free T-Shirt from Bacardi First 10-000

  10. Sarah says:

    I haven't read this yet, but I just read about it on another blog and it sounds like it is right up your alley.

    "The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Success by Achieving More with Less" by Richard Koch

    I am a library girl, I don't like to spend money for something I can get for free.
    My recent post Elizabeth Berg

  11. Allison says:

    Also keep in mind that just because you have an e-reader, doesn't mean you no longer read actual books. I read paper books all the time. I'd never give them up. I love the feel and smell of them. But I also love toting a sizeable library around anywhere I go. If I have to wait in a doctor's office or at the oil change place or I'm stuck in traffic or a thousand other situations, I always have something to read. I was unexpectedly in the hospital for a week recently and I had everything I needed to pass the time right there in my bag.

    Plus, I love classic literature and you can load your e-reader up with Austen and Wilde and Dickens and Shakespeare for free. Love!

  12. Matt says:

    I respect your opinion greatly. My goal is to eventually buy an e-reader so they I can have less of an impact on the environment. My hope is that publishers will print less books, more paper will be recycled, less trees will be cut down, and I will have less clutter in my house. I love to hold a great book in my hands and feel the sharp edge of each page, but I also used to love buying CD's at the stores. I can now digitally download, books, movies, and music, and little buy little I am consuming less. I look forward to the day when my e-reader has the ability to comment, discuss with other readers, and we all can share in that experience together.

  13. karen says:

    I prefer books, too. But I compromised for travel: I use my netbook as an e-reader. I downloaded ePub (I think that's the name; from Adobe) and borrow books from my library. I just flip the screen so that I hold the netbook like a book. I also have Kindle for my smartphone where I only download free books.
    I continue to check out real books from the library.

  14. Etienne says:

    I like Gail show, but not her financial advises (yes for the short term, but not the long term/investing).
    The best books I have read are:
    – Money Road by Garth Turner (Canadian)
    – The 4-hour workweek by Tim Ferriss
    – Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey (the audiobook/seminar are very good)
    – Broke & Fabulous by Suze Orman

    I have just ordered Wealthbuilding: Lifelong Financial Strategies for Success by Kurt Rosentreter (Canadian), from what I have read from him, it should be a very good book.

  15. Lindsay says:

    I was given a Kindle for my birthday and I absolutely love it. I also love books – holding them, smelling them, feeling them in my hands. But, the books on Kindle are cheaper (usually) and I fell in love with my Kindle almost instantly. Having one doesn't mean you'll never get to read or hold a "real" book ever again.
    My recent post Meeting your spirit guides

  16. Rafiki says:

    I'm with you on the no e reader. As awesome as technology has become I still enjoy the old ways of doing things. Stuff like reading an actual book or playing a board game I enjoy much more than its technology counterpart
    My recent post Work Over School

  17. Melissa says:

    I am with you! I prefer books too!

  18. NDChic says:

    I completely agree with you. I like actual books and my eyes don't need any more screen time. I've started selling some of my old books on E-bay so I don't have a huge pile of old ones sitting around. I look forward to your post on Gail's book. I really like her show and I think that I would like her book. The last financial book I read was Smart Couple Finish Rich by David Bach and it was kind of a waste of time. I didn't gain anything by reading it.
    My recent post Budget May 2011

  19. Erin says:

    My husband just bought me an iPad as a Mother's Day present. (It's my first Mother's Day, so it's an exception spending that much.) He mainly bought it because my computer is starting to die so an iPad is a much cheaper alternative than another computer and my computer will work fine constantly plugged in at one spot if I do need to do work that I can't do on the iPad. I'm excited about having the option of using it as an e-reader, while also being able to use it as a computer. However, I don't think I would spend the money on a Nook or Kindle because I'm like you, I like the paper copy of a book that I make notes in and physically flip pages.

  20. Kayla says:

    I will never buy an e-reader because I already have the iPad 2, and I too like the feeling of an actual book.

    Plus the things I read most of nowadays are blogs.. which are online.. so I already have my computer and iPad for that.
    My recent post hello summer

  21. Lili says:

    I love my Kobo. I make the font really big and use it on the cardio machines at the gym. You can't do that with paper books!

    • gmbmfb says:

      It's weird but I've never been able to read or concentrate on anything else but exercising when I'm on cardio machines at the gym. In fact, I can barely listen to music because it distracts me too much.

  22. munchkin says:

    Krystal I am with you on this one. I can MAYBE see it as an option for avid readers who do a lot of travelling because its less to carry around but I could never replace books with an e-reader. For me, books are something to collect. Someday when I have my own place I want to have a room full of all my books with a great big comfy chair to read in :)
    My recent post White Iphone

  23. Erin Bury says:

    Hey – I actually read Crush It! a while ago, and we hosted a couple events with the author, Gary Vaynerchuk. He's an awesome entrepreneur – super motivating and down-to-earth.

    And I just finished Debt-Free Forever – I found it wasn't that useful if you're out of debt, but I definitely recommended it to a few friends who still have student loans/lines of credit.

    Have you read Automatic Millionaire? By far the best book I've read about money management.

    • gmbmfb says:

      Awesome, good to know. I've already read the first few pages of Crush It! and I love his enthusiasm. The concepts are fairly straight forward, but he's really got an energy to his writing that I am enjoying. As for Debt-Free Forever, I've actually heard that from a few people. I've never actually read anything by Gail before, so it will be interesting to see if her on-air personality reflects in her writing. Haven't heard of Automatic Millionaire, but will flag it for the next book order I make! Thanks for the suggestion! :)

  24. Etienne says:

    I was disappointed in Crush It!.. read it in like 30 minutes (seriously) and sisn'T feel it gave much help aside from a kick in the butt to start something. I prefer 4-hour workweek in the sense that it has tons of detailled information on how to do stuff (if you plan to lanuch a company/site, like Crush It tells you to).

  25. Kathrin says:

    I definitely am a fan of "real" books, and realised if I bought an e-reader I would still want to buy the actual books so I would just be doubling up. The only time where I think I would like one is when I travel because I don't want to lug books around with me.

  26. TWG says:

    I completely agree with you. I will never buy an eReader. I love my paper books, I like going back through them and seeing the notes that I've written and the passages that I chose to highlight. It's just so much more of a personal connection. I also stare at a computer screen all day and don't need to do it when I'm resting at home. My eyes will thank me later.
    My recent post It’s all sorts of crazy up in here

  27. I like e-readers but I don't think I could EVER give up paper books. There's just something about holding it and flipping through the pages that feels *good*
    My recent post The Anti-Bride

  28. I too used all these reasons to justify not buying an e-reader. Recently, I received some communications (spam) from Lab126's recruitment team because they're looking for engineers to build the next generation Kindle. So I went ahead and bought a Kindle, telling myself it was for research purposes….now I'm ashamed, but I love my Kindle. The battery life is insane and 3G is free in a zillion countries. I used it to check my email and read blogs on a recent trip to Portugal. In fact, I bought a new book in a taxi on the way to the airport.
    My recent post Starting a Business is Easy!

  29. John says:

    I'm sure i'm a bit late on the post, but you should really look at the Nook Color that Barnes & Noble carries. It is built off the Android OS platform, which is essentially a tablet PC OS. With a little hack, you can enable all features and turn your ereader, into a full fledged 8" tablet. You can then download all the various ereader platforms, nook, kindle, etc, plus having things like Gmail, and any other app available via the Google Android Market. For 250$, it's a great deal.

  30. Cristin says:

    You’re not alone! Not only do I agree with your point regarding going screenless after my work day is done, but I also have a few reasons of my own to not go to an e-reader. :(

  31. Cat says:

    I have an ereader (Kobo Touch). And honestly, I don’t miss paper books as much as I thought I would.

    All the things you say are true. But e-ink screens will very quickly trick you into thinking they’re paper. It’s truly a great technology. It looks like a page, but without everything that’s annoying about pages. Mine has a touch screen, so I don’t even hear a click – I just touch it and the page turns.

    I also find I am reading a lot more. And I have heard lots of people say the same. Suddenly you have access to so much more reading material so much more quickly, and it’s so much more convenient to carry it all around. I’m reading more than twice as much as I was before I got an ereader.

    The physics of reading are easier just in general. It’s easier to read one-handed, standing, with no hands at all, etc. You don’t need to worry about keeping the page pinned. You can prop it up in its case while you do something else with your hands and keep reading.

    And finally (and this is totally unexcepted), I am developing a fondness for my ereader just like I have for paper books – only moreso.

    Instead of it representing a single book, a single memory, a single experience, it represents ALL of them. It represents reading itself. As a writer, I see ebooks and ereaders as being the future of my art, and it’s a bright future.

    This technology will only increase access to literature, make it easier for independent authors to be successful, and easier for people to just read more. This is a beautiful time for the art of writing, and an ereader symbolizes all of that to me, in addition to the memory of my books.

    I thought, when I first got it, that it might be handy for class readings (I’m in university). And it might be. But I’ve found that I’m not using it for that purpose.

    My ereader has become my escape device – a pure enjoyment medium. I don’t do any work on it. I don’t do anything I “have” to do. I just unwind and pleasure-read. And it represents that little bit of me-time in an increasingly busy world, as well.

    There are ereaders out there with very advanced annotating/note-taking ability (mine is not one of them – I wanted a more basic reader) and touch screens that I think you may find yourself enjoying more than you think.

    Ultimately it’s up to you. But not only has having an ereader not diminished my experience, it’s actually made it better in every way.

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