Coming from an information technology career I’m often asked, “what is the best way to ‘read’ books.” Well, I feel that’s not a question with a simple black and white answer. Each version has their pros and cons, both for publishers and readers alike. However, since that answer isn’t an answer that will appease those that ask that question I figured I’d lay out some of the major pros and cons of each. Personally, I’d admit that I like big books and I can’t lie, but digital, moldy paper, or staticky audio I have no real preference. If I love the book enough I may find I own a copy of each media type. Most of the time I have to think where and when I’d like to read, or listen, to the book.
This brings us to the first consideration of the argument, portability. With the weight of book can be a killer on the back. Just think about filling a book bag with War and Peace or Don Quixote with all the other things you need to have on you. While some of you will argue, “I’m going to a movie why should I carry a book with me?” To them, I have to say you can only see movie advertisements so many times. Even the most diehard of advertising collectors would scratch their eyes out from boredom the second or third time through. Besides you never know what might happen. The film may be delayed. While you’re watching another run of advertising I will sit with a good book, thanks. The weight of books is their downside. EBook readers weigh less then a pound and audiobooks can be downloaded onto any smartphone. They can easily beat books in the protibliitay department.
Ebooks’ and audiobooks’ technology are their bigness weakness. Now that I’ve pissed off every paper book lover, let’s switch gears and throw the other two under the bus. EBooks and audiobooks rely on power, internet connection (most of the time), and working hardware devices to consume these books. Books on the other hand, as long as you can read the words on the page you are good to go. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a book that contracted a virus that wipes them blank. Unlike a digital book or audiobook player most of the time a book will survive even if it’s run over by that aforementioned bus.
Like most authors, I read a lot of books. To paraphrase Stephen King how can you be a writer if you don’t study the craft by reading those that came before you? I will admit that while my writings are all in the present I find that I enjoy reading the classics, or at least the books, of the past. It can at times be different to find that lost mastery of the English language digitally. Most of the time I have to hit up an used bookstore or Amazon’s used book to find a copy because the book is out of print. Some of these books resonate with audiences today but unless there is a massive used bookstore or a library that has the space to store books that aren’t everyday reads, the books that have a waiting list to check out, you may need to hunt for these books. While Google and other companies have made strides in working to archive old and out of print books into ebook there’s still tons of room for improvement. Ebooks at the moment can’t really be shared effectively among groups of readers unless you share your account with those users. Most libraries allow readers to check out digital versions of a book. Personally, I can’t count the number of books I’ve shared with my friends and family after I read it. While for the most part they didn’t go out and buy their own copy of the book after they finished it, but if they were enjoyable and a book that they felt was one that they would reread they bought their own copy. While I can see why publishers and authors would not like readers to share books but literature has always been about hand me downs and word of mouth for their primary marketing strategy. Also if the book is one that I enjoy I for one am not above buying multiple editions. I own “Murder on the Orient Express” in iBooks on my iPad and iPhone, I own the audio version on Audible, and I own three different physical book copies. I’ve read them all many times. While on the topic of multiple editions that’s one place where digital formats can blow paper out of the water. No matter how many editors look at a manuscript there is always a chance that something will fall through the cracks. With paper books it’s not like a publisher can print a correction change the printed copies. With ebooks and to a lesser extent audiobooks it’s easy for a publisher to just push out an updated edition that end users automatically download, generally speaking, to correct the error or to add new content.
A common argument for paper books is the feel or smell of a real book. I’ve heard that iPads and Kindles don’t smell. That’s usually a good thing. The tactile feel of turning the pages is a nice feeling I have to admit. Honestly, I don’t really see an advantage to either side here.
With all the pros and cons of each format, I personally feel whatever it take for you to enjoy the literature then so be it. I personally like a mixture of the three. I use my iPhone and iPad for iBooks when I’m traveling. I subscribe to Audible when I’m busy and unable to look at the screen. And I like an old fashion book when I’m reading in bed. Ultimately I personally feel that as long as you are consuming the great lecture use whatever works for you.