A Readers Dilemma; Do You Read Electronic or Analog?
When I was a kid, I was a huge reader. It was rare to see me without a book in my hand. Subsequently I was the only person in my class that had a whole bookshelf all to themselves that was actually full with books I had read. As I got older and life became more and more hectic, reading got put to the side. I had less free time and less space to store a full library in my home. Meanwhile, as e-readers became more and more readily available and the new “must have” for readers I started to wonder if I was missing out on great books just because I didn’t have space to store them. I was convinced that if I didn’t have a physical book in my hand, I wasn’t actually reading.
Years later, I now find myself with a collection of around 500 physical books, another few hundred audio books, and a few dozen on my nook/kindle and I keep finding myself asking “Am I cheating if I read analog AND electronic books?” Despite my feelings, there’s a staunch debate among readers about paper vs electronic vs audio and what counts as “reading” so my question isn’t as strange as it may seem.
Reading in this corner: The hipsters and the corporate sellouts (ironic isn’t it?)
Firstly some readers will say if you’re not reading electronic books or audio books then you’re crazy. Why take up square footage (which is a hot commodity in the urban spaces they call home) storing giant tomes when you can carry all the books you can want in your pocket. Plus, some of the devices look just like the real thing and honestly, people don’t have time to sit down for hours and hours to read a book. Besides, Audible lets me speed up the narrator so I can get through books in half the time. If you’re reading physical books, you’re living in the past and need to step into the 21st century grandpa.
I’ve heard this from two types of people: the first wears thick framed black glasses, is carrying his artisan coffee in a biodegradable cup and is wearing a flannel shirt he got for almost nothing from a thrift store. The second, manages a hedge fund or has some other stressful office job, belongs to a country club (or desperately wants to), and is well on his way to climbing that corporate ladder.
Reading in this corner: The librarians (or a different kind of hipster depending on how you look at it)
On the other hand, there’s a group of people that can’t fathom not holding a book in their hand while they read it. They argue you can always borrow a book from a library if you’re not sure you want to keep it. The physical sensation of having a book in your hand adds to the immersion in the story. People call books “page turners” for a reason. Nothing feels better than finishing an amazing book than closing the cover and running your hand along the spine and savoring your experience. There’s also a sense of accomplishment looking a library full of books and reliving the experiences you had reading each and every one of them. And finally, the smell. Books have an amazing smell that you don’t get with a device.
Unsurprisingly, these readers have a specific place (or places) they like to read best fondly referred to as their reading nook. They have favorite mugs used for their favorite tea or coffee they drink when reading a book in said nook (preferably in the fall and/or when it’s raining). Fantasy or historical fiction are their favorite genres but every now and then you can find them reading a romance novel (usually historical as well and only behind closed doors). Above all, they also will have multiple scented candles that promises to smell like books, or are book themed and may have an unfinished manuscript they’ve been writing for years laying around.
What’s a reader to do?
At one time or another I’ve belonged to both camps and I propose a radical idea, how about everyone stops caring HOW someone is reading and instead talk about WHAT they’re reading?
I know, it’s crazy. How dare I suggest there’s not just one way to do things? Personally, I love the fact that I have a room with of all my favorites. I also long for a reading nook to sit at on a fall day with a great read, a fuzzy blanket, and some kind of pumpkin spice beverage. Whenever I have people over and they’re astonished with the number of titles I’ve read and I love telling them about any one of them.
Moreover I work full time and calling out because I’m in the middle of a chapter tends to be frowned upon. Audio books suit my needs just fine. Some stories were made to be told aloud. Some narrators can add a different dimension to books I never thought possible. However, if I feel strongly about a book I’m listening to, I’ll buy a copy of it ( The Power is a great example of that). Most importantly, I don’t have to find a home for a book I didn’t like and don’t want to keep. Consequently, Audible’s return policy is very liberal so if I don’t like a book, I’ll pick a new one.
At the end of the day, the important thing is that as readers, we READ in whatever form we can? There are millions and millions of books out there to read. Why waste time debating HOW people read a book and start giving the WHY they should read a book?
In short, Audio book, e-book, physical book, borrowed, or bought it doesn’t matter. Just read a damn book!