I’ve been reading since I was four years old, and memorizing books since I was about three. The written word has always been my favorite: reading on family trips, reading during my meals, reading before hopping in the shower (or while in the bathtub), while waiting for water to boil, you name it. In the past two years, I’ve become accustomed to having the option of e-books as well as the paperbacks and hardcovers I grew up with. So…which is better?
There is no surefire answer to this question.
I’ll start with e-books. I love the ease of having several books on one device, carried with me everywhere I go; whether on my iPad or on my iPhone. I love that I can read a book on my iPad at night and pick up where I left off during my lunch break on my iPhone. I love I always have something to read with me whether I have a print book in my bag or not. I like that I can read in the dark on my iPad and not have to worry about forgetting to shut off the light before bed. I also like that my reading positioning doesn’t require my hands holding it, and I can lay on my side and read till I literally pass out from the exhaustion of the day.
I think e-books are the way to go with college textbooks. I think that they would save college students hundreds of dollars a year on books that they will use once and hardly get back half of what they paid for it. With the extraordinary amount of expenses college students already have, e-books would help ease that burden just a bit. My last couple of years in college, I bought some e-books as well as rented most of my textbooks to avoid that cost. Plus, it’s a space-saver: we won’t have books that we’ve saved cluttering our shelves that we might never look at again.
However, most of the time I will go for what costs the least, and at times, print books are actually less money than swiping the book off of the Amazon Kindle store. I think this is slightly ridiculous, considering an e-book is a digital file, basically a glorified PDF, and should not cost more than $5. A print book is actually printed and costs more money to produce. I feel that publishing companies are ripping us off a bit by their fear of e-books costing less than print books do.
Now, print books. Obviously, I grew up reading paperbacks and hardcovers. I like the feel and smell of print books, and enjoy the feeling of actually reading printed words on a page, rather than staring at a screen like I do a lot of the time (at both jobs, teaching, raiding, reading blogs). I also adore book covers, and am very picky about which one I buy if there is more than one available to me, and covers are not something I can glance at constantly while reading an e-book. I’m reading Caucasia by Danzy Senna, and I enjoy being able to sit back and read comfortably, actually turning pages and enjoying the feel of a paperback in my hands. I also have a rather large stack of to-be-read books on my nightstand, and being able to peruse through them and have them in concrete form is something of a joy to me.
I also like that print books can be resold as well as they do. There’s nothing I love more than visiting the thrift store or a used bookstore and spending an hour or so picking out ten to twelve used books that cost under a dollar each. It takes a little more dedication, but you can often find books that you’ve been wanting to read and spend a lot less money than if you had bought them new in either form.
Of course, print books have their drawbacks as well. I have a larger apartment than I did a couple of months ago, but I still have one bookshelf that is already bursting with books as it is, most ones that I am not willing to part with. Some of them are already double-shelved, and eventually, I won’t have room to buy any more unless I get rid of some. I may end up giving some away once I get through ones I haven’t read, and say, “Hmm, probably won’t read this again,” and I’ll make room for more. With a Kindle app, I don’t have to do this. I can hoard as many books as I’d like, and they’re still stored digitally in the cloud and on my device, all in one place. I can have hundreds of books stored and not fill my bookshelf any more, preserving the precious space I do have.
As I mentioned before, something that’s always presented a problem for me with reading is finding a comfortable position for it. With print books, I have to use one or both hands to hold the book open and read, and sometimes this presents a challenge if I’m eating while reading, etc. When I was little I remember basically spinning around my bed at intervals, trying to find exactly the right position to read in, while with my iPad, I switch from one side to the other at most, and it’s completely hands free until I have to turn the page.
Ultimately, I don’t have a definitive answer to this question. I love both forms of books, and would gladly spend money on both forms of books, depending on which is most cost-efficient and the availability of the item. I feel that it’s sad that print books are starting to lose traction, but I hope that publishing companies begin to realize what kind of economy and market they are working with and find ways to reduce production costs to provide reasonable prices for both forms. Most book-lovers would gladly buy books all the time if it didn’t cost more than an hour’s work to buy 3-4 books. I sure know I would.
Do you read e-books or print books more often? Do you have a preference? Let me know in the comments.
This post is in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge on WordPress.com. If you’d like to submit your own challenge post, please click here.