In my hands I have two copies of the same book--one on an e-book reader, one a paperback. Which do I choose?
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I got a Kindle last year, mainly as an editing tool. I change my books into PDF and read them with notebook in hand.
I've gotten pretty used to the idea that I can "hold a library in my hand." Not that I buy many books (money being scarce at the moment) but it's nice to pull up a floor and pretend the world is going away for a while.
At the beginning of April I self-published Without A Voice, e-book only, and I realized something interesting. I didn't want to read it on the Kindle. I wanted to hold it in my hands, curl the pages, touch it.
This morning I got the first paperback copies, and it's very different to be reading my book in hard copy as opposed to the screen. I realized that on the Kindle I'm a casual reader--I'll get into a book, get bored with it, leave it and never come back. I never do that with a hard copy book unless the quality is absolutely abysmal. I can read hundreds of samples on the tablet and pick one or two that I like, but the samples just sit there. Once I close them, they're gone. I can drop a book and pick up another one as casually as I can pick up and drop a computer game.
On the other hand, a physical book is a constant reminder. It sits up and begs me to start reading again. It flaps its cover at me (figuratively speaking) and tells me I need to finish.
The quality of my reading is different as well. When I'm reading a physical book I'm totally immersed, the world could go up in flames and I might notice if my book caught on fire. With the e-book reader I'm about half as immersed. The world is still there, I'm listening to the traffic outside and smelling the fresh cut grass. I read with less than half my attention, especially if it's a book I've read before.
Audio-books are even worse. I think it's a sensory thing. When I'm reading on a tablet, my eyes are engaged. I can put the tablet down and it stays where it's put. I can't hear the pages when they turn, I can't touch them, I can't feel the difference between the cover and the interior pages. Audio engages only my ears. When I'm reading a hard-copy book I have to pay close attention to the book. It's in my hands, I have to physically turn the pages. Sometimes when reading my favorites I have to keep the pages from escaping. :)
There's contrast in the page quality, a different feel to the spine. If I put the book down I have to actually take action, put in a book mark or I'll lose my place. I have to focus entirely on the book. It's an interactive experience, far more interactive than anything else other than real life. A movie can't compare (eyes and ears are engaged) a video game, an e-reader, whatever.
When we read a hard-copy book, it forces touch, sight, hearing, sometimes even scent to engage. Nothing will ever replace that experience for me.
I think eventually hard copy books may lose their appeal to a large portion of the population, because most people are already casual readers. As the next generations move up and have never really experienced total immersion in a book, hard copy books may eventually phase out. I hope not, but it's possible.
For me it's hard-copy all the way and that probably won't change in the near future.
***The Indelibles hosts a monthly feature called INDIE LIFE. Modeled after Alex Cavanaugh's awesome Insecure Writer's Group, this is a chance for indie authors to post about indie life, find each other, offer support, encouragement, news, helpful hints, and anything else that makes life as an indie author a little easier.
What is Indie Life? How: Sign up on the Linky at The Indelibles. When: Post on the second Wednesday of the month. What: Write anything indie related: something that will inspire or help a fellow indie; something that celebrates a release or a milestone; something that talks about the ups and downs, joys and heartaches of Being Indie.