Digital vs. Print & Paper (Part I)

I used to have a kindle. I don’t anymore.

That already lays out what side of this debate I fall down on. I stated in my previous post about continuing to learn that I had, at the last count, over 400 books in my flat. There is something undeniably awesome about a bookshelf overflowing with books of all different shapes and sizes.

I couldn’t imagine living in a house without any books. It would seem as if it had no soul.

Reading a book is not just about what the words say. It’s about the whole experience that goes with it. It’s the holding of it, the setting of the type, the feel of the pages. You don’t get any of that with a kindle. Publishers and editors make these decisions when considered the best way to put the text across to readers. I don’t think you get any of that from a kindle/e-reader.

You could probably fit all these books on a hard drive. It wouldn’t be quite so beautiful though would it?

I always remember something my English teacher demonstrated. He asked us what the difference between a kindle and an e-reader was. We naturally came up with all of the obvious answers, but that wasn’t what he was looking for. He turned to the bookshelf behind his desk, picked up a volume of Shakespeare’s complete works, held it at head height, and dropped it on the floor with an almighty thump. We had a second floor classroom for A Level English, with the staff room below. I loved the idea that all the other teachers were just like ‘what the fuck?’ underneath. Then again, they may have been used to it.

The difference he was looking for, apparently, was that if you did that with an e-reader then you wouldn’t be able to pick it up and read it again, as he proceeded to do with that complete works of Shakespeare.

He had a point. I’ve dropped books in the bath, left them in the rain, taken them to the beach, to the pool, on boats, etc. The point is, some of my books have been through the wars with me, and yet they are still readable. Okay, that one that was out in the rain all night has some pages in need of Google translate, but predominately, it’s still good (a copy of David Starkey’s Elizabeth I left in the company of my then-one-year-old Labrador did not fare so well). You do any of the above things with an e-reader and it’s pretty much done for.

There are good things about them, don’t get me wrong. They’re good for travelling (unless you want to do any of the above activities), and they are very light. One of my friends, who travels a lot, says she couldn’t live without hers.

‘E-reader’: Image from Unsplash

An e-reader is convenient; it means you don’t have to think about which books you want to take on holiday, because you can fit 100+ in your carry on bag, and you don’t have to worry about hurting your shoulder from lugging around print volumes. Also, e-reader books tend to be a little bit cheaper than physical copies, although not always.

That’s pretty much the only advantages I can think of. My mum says she likes them because they’re easier to hold up in bed. I’m guessing it still hurts the same as a real book if you drop it on your face whilst reading though (I have definitely done this).

Which side of the debate do you fall down on? Do you prefer e-readers or print copies, or do you use both?

6 thoughts on “Digital vs. Print & Paper (Part I)

  1. I bought an e-reader (Nook) which I quite liked at first and did use a bit. But I seem to have given up on it, because I have so many paper books still waiting to be read, and because when I travel I have the space to take real books with me. Having said that, there are also piles of e-books waiting on my desktop to be transferred to the Nook and to be read; they just aren’t quite as visible and nagging as the real ones…

    1. Do you remember the incident with the Shakespeare tome?!

      I just don’t really like reading off an e-reader. I find it quite difficult to maintain my focus. Whenever I had to read really long journals at Uni or anything like that I had to print them so I could highlight/annotate. Some managed to do that on their kindles, but I don’t think I could of learnt the same way.

      1. Yes, you brought back a glimpse from the past there… ah, happy days! Just thinking back, photocopiers had just come into use when I was at uni, so we did occasionally get printouts. And microfiches – what a waste of time they were.

        1. Micro-what now? Are those those things where you read them on a plate under a light/microscope? With a twiddly wheel..? Or am I thinking of something completely different?

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