Afternoon InquisitionRandom Asides

AI: Shelvers v. Downloaders

There’s no denying that our everyday lives are influenced more and more by technology. Whether it’s something fun, like the release of StarCraft II, or the promise of something practical (and fun), like the Porsche 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid car, there is never a shortage of awesome new items being developed, manufactured, and sold.

And I love new technology. All of it. Though I freely admit I can’t keep up with it all. There just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to see to my personal quirks and glitches and procure and actually use all the latest cool gadgets. Hell, I’ve barely managed to squeeze computers, cell phones, MP3 players, and a Mr. Coffee machine into my routine. But I would definitely use more if I could.

When it comes to an item like a Kindle or an iPad, however, I simply have no interest.

Amazon reported a couple weeks ago it is now selling 80% more downloaded books than hardbacks, so it is obviously another popular wave of consumer technology, but the thing is, electronic books just don’t appeal to me.

I don’t consider myself old fashioned, despite the fact that a night out for me consists of pitching woo in the rumble seat with my best girl and using phrases like “23 skiddoo”. And I don’t necessarily want to kill trees, but I prefer printed books.

Now, I have no rational reason for the preference, and I realize that I may eventually have to change, as more and more titles become available only in electronic form. I just like the heft of a printed book, the feel of it in my hands, the smell and feel of the pages, and the nostalgia of seeing my favorites sitting on my bookshelf.

But what about you?

Do you have a preference? Print or electronic? What are the pros/cons of either? Do you have a Kindle, iPad, other? Any hard-dying connections with books? Do you place value on a well stocked bookshelf? If a train left New York traveling west at 65 mph, and at the same time, a jet left Los Angeles traveling east at 650 mph, what would be the sound of one hand clapping? And just how do they grow more seedless watermelons anyway? Also, if a tree fell in the woods, are you hoping it lands on me right about now?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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72 Comments

  1. If I could afford an e-book reader, I’d probably be going electronic all the way. Until then, I’m sticking with paper. Trying to actually read something long on a computer screen gives me a headache, I think because the background is so bright. I’ve also basically run out of shelf space, so it would be nice to have a format that takes up less room.

    Then again, even if I had a Nook or a Kindle, I’d still be checking books out from the library pretty often, since that’s still much cheaper than buying them.

  2. I have a Kindle, and I enjoy it. I’ve bought some older books on it, and downloaded a lot of public domain classics. For pleasure reading, it’s not bad… easy to read, not hard on the eyes at all, and easy to manage. There are occasional formatting issues… lines that don’t carry cleanly, odd carriage returns because of it, etc… but overall, it’s a pleasure to read from, and far easier to pack than a trilogy of paperbacks.

    However, I also tried to do some research reading from it. Good gods, it sucked. I couldn’t manipulate it the way I liked (notes harder to make and find, flipping back to things a pain, etc.), and the formatting issues were exacerbated by the presence of pictures and tables (which it generally rendered fairly well).

  3. If I could have my book collection on an ereader I’d do it in a heartbeat and never look back. It would be so sweet to quickly find and read a particular short story or poem on a moment’s notice. It would also be so cool to have off-site backup for my book collection just like I have for my music collection.

    On the other hand there is no way I’ll buy an ebook reader until it is very clear that when I download a book I own it. I want to be able to share it with my wife. I want to know I’ll be able to read it my entire life. I want content that is not tied to a particular device. I want no DRM. I don’t want the company I bought the book from to have the ability to take it back. Until this happens I’m not buying anyone’s ebook.

  4. I hate to admit this, but I will go for whichever is the easiest to read. So far, that is usually books, but there are a lot of exceptions. Cream colored paper with tiny script – its not gonna happen.

    I must admit that I have only looked at the kindle a couple times, but I have not been impressed. It is too much like the newer phones – just smaller and smaller.

    signed
    ‘over forty’

  5. Paper. I HATE electronic books. HATE HATE to stabby death!

    That being said — I don’t like new paper books either. I want a nice old, musty library book or one from a used bookstore.

    I think people need to rediscover the library instead of buying books in electronic AND paper format.

    A huge bookshelf/personal library used to be a dream of mine. As I have gotten older though I tend to be somewhat of a minimalist and donated a lot of my books to the library. For one, it creates more space and second, I am not the person who reads the same books over and over again and I felt like it would be more beneficial if others could enjoy them. The library most probably sells them, and I figure they could use the money.

    I still have some of the ones I just don’t have the heart to part with but again . . .

    I just love the damn smell of a library book.

  6. If I could afford it, I’d probably buy an e-reader, though I don’t know which one. But I’d still read regular old books, too. I don’t think you need to use one and forget the other, but I get that some people don’t like e-readers at all.

  7. We just moved to a new apartment and we have 3 big bookshelves that are way overfull. Moving that many books down 3 flights, in and out of the truck and up one flight, on the 2 hottest days of the year (so far) was… unpleasant. However, I love our books. I love seeing them all lined up on (and falling off of) the shelves. One day when we have a house, I want a library, with that rollie ladder. I love the feel of books, the paper, the smell. Also, I still don’t fully trust wholly digital technology to not erase everything. It’s the same reason we won’t ever get rid of all the CD’s we have.

  8. @Stevie:

    As I have gotten older though I tend to be somewhat of a minimalist and donated a lot of my books to the library.

    Truth be told, I went through a huge pare down of books as well about a year ago. I gave a lot of my books away and sold some back to bookstores that would buy them. I’m probably only holding onto about 40 or 50 at this point, and many of those will be going away soon. Minimalist is me.

  9. Paper, hands down. But paper takes up a lot of space and isn’t easy to carry around, especially if you want an assortment. Amazon makes Kindle reader software available for Android phones so I have a library on it that I use when I’m waiting for things to happen like appointments.

  10. @davew: DRM is definitely an issue, which is why I think I might use it more like Mark Hall — more for convenience rather than ownership. Right now, the convenience doesn’t justify the cost. Maybe some day. If I were to be able to actually own the book I bought, I might be more interested in an e-reader, though.

    @Stevie: You know, I don’t get this disdain that some hold toward people who choose to buy books. I don’t buy a ton of books books, but I like having and holding them. I do tend to buy used books, but I still enjoy buying them and owning them, even if they only cost $2 from Goodwill. I give some of them away, to friends or Goodwill or the library, but some I keep.

    What’s wrong with someone spending their own money on books, though? Some people like to own things. Some people still buy CDs! (I don’t, but I don’t begrudge anyone who does.) Besides, authors need to make money to continue to write, especially the smaller guys. I say it’s a good thing that some people still choose to buy books. (Of course, my used book buying probably doesn’t count as giving money to the authors, but used bookstores are awesome.)

  11. Weird, I just blogged a little about this ebook stuff earlier today. I really like the concept of ebooks, and the readers I’ve tried I like. But right now I don’t have a reader, and probably won’t be getting one anytime soon. At this point if I can pay 7.99$ for a paperback but they’re going to charge me 9.99$ for the ebook edition, I’ll stick with the dead-tree versions.

  12. I’ll stick with paper, but it’s mostly because I’m slightly crazy and would not be able to enjoy reading an electronic book simply because I would be constantly worrying about if the battery was going to die.

  13. I borrow more than 9 out of every 10 books I read, so no ebooks for me in the immediate future.

    I love browsing through peoples’ shelves when I visit for the first time to see what kind of readers they are, and would like for my own shelves to have the books that I consider the best, but I don’t like buying books I’ve read, and I don’t like buying books that might disappoint me…

    At some point in the future, when every wall in my apartment is a video-screen, one of them will be a virtual bookshelf displaying my absolute favourites.

  14. I’m going for door number 3: Audio.

    I don’t have the attention to read. I could just barely get through your introduction. If I can’t read it in 15-30 seconds, its too long.

    I can’t go without noise. I need to hear something. However, if I’m listening to music, then I’m not concentration on what I’m reading. That’s why I’m a fan of the audio book. I can do other things, like drive, and listen to information. I have a fairly good retention, as long as I’m playing video games while I’m doing it.

    I’m also a fan of video adaptation. Play it out for me. Then I can see it and hear it. But, alas, my downfall is my total lack of OH, HEY, LOOK, A NICKEL!!! A SHINY NICKEL!

  15. I have an iPad, and have been using the reader functionality of it quite a bit. BUT only for Project Gutenberg titles, so in that respect I’m treating it like a library card.

    On the whole I still prefer paper. Not because of the battery, which lasts well over 10 hours, but more for simplicity sometimes.

    What I would like though, is the ability to buy a paper book AND get a DRM’d digital copy as well. Kinda like they do with some DVDs these days.

    You can’t grep a dead tree. But then you can’t easily flip through a file.

    I love the ability to highlight a passage and write notes about it in iBooks, and the ability to read at night without having a light on is fantastic, as it means I can read and not disturb The Girl. Also, the whole not chopping down a forest, hauling wood on a truck, rendering it down, and all that stuff.

    On the other hand, there’s no archival method for anything digital that will guarantee that it survives more than a couple decades.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that both have uses. I think they can peacefully coexist.

  16. Paper books just seem unwieldy to me. I need two hands to read them. It’s too easy to lose my place, or my bookmark. I like long books, and they can get heavy. It’s difficult to carry enough reading material for a long plane ride plus eight or more days traveling without breaking your back with paper books. I reread books over and over and over, and pages fall out, they get torn, things get spilled on them…

    I love my Kindle. Love it. It doesn’t have ANY of those issues. :)

  17. STARRRCRAFFT!!!!
    If only my computer dident suck so much I wouldent be reading anything anymore and just play Starcraft all day.

    Since that is not the case though, online books rock quite a lot. I still prefere hardcover but I would have no problem changing. When I was a teenager I used to read everything online cause I couldent afford books. :?

  18. @Bjornar
    Ditto on the voyeuristic joy of scoping out another’s bookshelf. It’s usually the first thing I look for when I enter someone’s home.
    Books have had such an influence on how I’ve come to be who I am (and continue to modify my views) that they serve as an excellent shorthand for “who be me”. I assume they are also a good stand-in for “who be you”.

  19. Paper, preferably. I just like printed books. They’re also more persistent than electronic media.
    However, I’d like to get a Kindle just the same. I used to think they’d be terrible but then I had the chance to actually try one and it’s pretty damn sweet. And while a Kindle does have some disadvantages compared to a paperback (requires power, slightly heavier) it also has some advantages (mainly that it’s smaller and lighter than a thousand paperbacks). The screen on that thing is really good for reading on.

  20. Both.

    I have giant piles of books and graphic novels all over the house. I also share a Kindle with my wife, and have the Kindle app downloaded to my PC, Droid, and iPod Touch. The last ebook I bought was read across all formats: I read it on my phone and PC as I had time during the day, read it on the Kindle in the afternoon, and on my iPod as I lay in bed that night.

    On the other hand, I get a little political when I’m buying stuff. I get the impression that authors make much less money when we buy digital copies, and some of my favorite authors are semi-indie, so I pay hard cash for those physical books and don’t begrudge the extra expense for a single solitary second.

  21. Paper or Plastic?

    I have to say , right now, I’m sticking with paper. I and my friends and family read a lot. It’s great being able to loan books I love to someone who’s never read a particular author or book. And I also like give books as gifts. I’m not sure if its possible (or easy) to buy an ebook for someone and give it as a gift.

    As for when I read, I might be convinced to purchase an ereader if there’s a bit more comvergence with computing- like a non-backlit ipad or color electronic ink. That, and getting rid if DRM, could push me towards making the leap pretty easily. But right now I sit in front of a computer all day at work and when I leave, I’ll take my books analog, thanks.

  22. Paper. I’m very tactilely oriented; how well I retain material often directly correlates to how physically I interact with it. I also work at a publisher; those, in combination, have made me very, very aware of and dedicated to books-as-physical-objects.

    I’d absolutely use an e-reader for some things–the convenience on a long trip would be unbeatable, for instance–but it’s never going to replace books.

  23. I’m heading into the final year of my library science masters, and my experience so far has shown me that both paper and electronic resources have value. As a poor grad student, I don’t have an e-book reader, but if I had a bit of extra money I would certainly buy one, and happily use it to read e-books borrowed from the library (check your local public libraries, people, many of them actually have e-books and even e-book readers that you can check out!), or a select few that I may choose to buy for myself.
    Libraries are experiencing a period of perpetual change, and it’s going to take a while for many people to get comfortable with our new digital options. Because of this, I think that people should back off from all or nothing stances. I have heard many discussions which paint the situation as if some technology-crazed faction wants to throw out all the books in favor of intangible digital copies, and the old fashioned technophobes want to reject all digital and electronic tools while desperately clinging to crumbling print collections. At a state library association annual meeting that I attended, the keynote speaker even predicted that paper books would be obsolete within decades. This is completely preposterous, and it’s hysterical threats like these that only further divide the new crop of gen-y librarians from the veterans in the field.
    I guess my point here is…it’s okay to embrace both paper and digital resources.

  24. I am currently struggling with this issue (I’ll take 1st world problems for $1000 Alex).

    I love books. My library is well stocked despite a yearly purging. I still own some of the books I used for my thesis. I will NEVER use a e-reader (I thought, confidently…)

    On the other hand, I just got a Droid X which has a kindle app. I thought, “I’ll just look at the app and see how much I hate it.” I don’t hate it. I don’t think I would or could get rid of my library but I do think I might download a couple of books to take with me on vacations and to appointments and such….

  25. Dammit. I despise the implied “zero sum” factor to the question. Whenever it gets asked, so it’s not just you, Sam.

    Forget today. Forget shitty battery life. Forget cost. Forget storage. Consider, for a moment, what you are trying to do: consume the content provided.

    Now, start thinking about convenience. What device is the most convenient method to help you achieve the goal. Laying on the couch late in the day? A paper book probably wins. Standing in line at the DMV? The electronic device you care with you damn near anywhere you go. Driving to work? Audio, all the way.

    Granted, we live in world where each of those “containers” has its own cost. Which sucks and hopefully won’t be the case for long. I want to live in a world where I get to buy the book and then consume it however is appropriate to me over the LIFETIME of the book. I don’t want to be forced to make that decision at point of purchase time.

    Did I mention “dammit”?

  26. Scenario 1: You’re on vacation, drifting in a rowboat on a pond reading a new e-book. You shift positions, drop your book in the water, and boom. You just lost you entire library.

    Scenario 2: It’s July, 2020, and you remember a good book you read 10 years ago and want to read again (this has happened to me). You go find your old e-book, which has been obsolete for 8 years. It doesn’t work and no one can fix it or recover what was on it.

    My prediction; hardly any book published only as an e-book today will exist in 20 years.

    Paper an ink are still the most stable and long-lasting technology.

  27. @marilove: I don’t have disdain for people who buy books at all. I know a lot of people like to buy them, hold onto them and read them for however long they want to (I used to be one!) I was just kinda mulling over my own desire to share with everyone the joy that I get in going to a library — but, of course, even if I did people still have their own opinions and wouldn’t agree with me, lol.

    Oh! And used bookstores ARE awesome! I do trade books (and buy sometimes) with them all of the time. I LOVE how they usually have out of print books, etc. that you can’t find in a regular B&N . . . and they smell so good! Unfortunately the only really really good one where I live closed down because this town isn’t known for it’s culture appreciation (Las Vegas.)

    I know I am biased too — because I have a family member that can almost be classified as a book hoarder (and I mean in the real psychological disorder sense) and it breaks my heart and frustrates me at the same time.

  28. @PretzelsAndBeer: “My prediction; hardly any book published only as an e-book today will exist in 20 years. ”

    While I agree that preservation of born-digital resources is a big problem that does not yet have a satisfactory solution, I disagree with this prediction.
    Think about it, publishers do not simply release a thousand copies of a book (or hundred, or a million) and then destroy the original. I don’t think that a large number of books are published only as e-books at this point, but even for the number that are, there will likely be an original on a server somewhere–at the publisher perhaps, or depending on the book, at the Library of Congress–which is continually updated so as to prevent it from being lost to the ravages of time and technology updates.

    As for preservation of personal copies, according to (American) copyright law, once you buy a copyrighted item (book, movie, cd, etc.) you have the right to convert that item into any new form you wish, as long as it’s for personal use (and as long as you don’t bypass the DRM). I don’t know about the specifics of e-book readers (as digital media often becomes an exception to these rules bc of copyright holders hysteria over piracy, and the legislature’s general misunderstanding of technology) but it would seem that, legally, once the technology begins to become obsolete, you should be able to remove the information from it and convert it into the new format.

  29. Hi there!

    Oooch. Welcome to one of the most hotly-contested debates of the Library Science field! I’ve heard the Kindle/Nook/Sony e-Reader debated at so many library conferences now, I feel like I really ought to have something intelligent to say about the subject. GAH.

    Actually, many librarians that I’ve spoken to fall into the “Ooh, Shiny!” camp of eBook appreciation. We’ve had to go from card catalogs to online public access catalogs, and from the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature to multiple online databases. So most of us know better than to fear new media when it comes to content.

    That said, I do believe there is a little trepidation in the field regarding e-readers. Does this mean the end of books? Are they going to put us out to pasture yet? What about that new book smell? Surely they can’t replace THAT!

    I’ve tried reading eBooks, and to me, they’re surprisingly intuitive! True, they’re not the same as paging through an ancient text by the fire with a goblet of port and a long churchwarden pipe; but after maybe 30 minutes of reading, I found myself paging through the scroll buttons very naturally.

    One good case against eBooks is that they’re “not there yet”. They can’t yet replace a good coffee table book with full-color pictures and the ability to hold a door open. But if you just need something to page through on a long train ride or before bedtime, they’re much lighter and convenient than a paper text.

    And they’re probably NOT going to -replace- books. People will always want to have a leafy-flippity-woody-smelling things to treasure and pass down to their grandkidlings. They’re not going to just die out in our lifetime.

    But hey, if anyone wants to do some more research on the subject, here’s a fun little drinking game that you can play with friends! http://bookavore.tumblr.com/post/871178080/e-books-article-drinking-game (But maybe you should call the paramedics BEFORE you start playing, so they get there in time) :)

    — Craig

  30. Right now I’m a library book reader because I am cheap, not much of a re-reader, and don’t like the idea of real books taking up space in my house.

    I would eventually like an e-reader for two purposes: those huge-ass books that are a pain to drag around on my commute and the highlight/ search ability. Is there even a search ability with e-books? If not, there should be. I was reading a book this morning and trying to find something that I had read in an earlier chapter. That would have been much easier if I could have just searched for a word or phrase.

  31. Also: Ye GODS, if I played that eBook reader drinking game while reading this thread, my liver would have already moved out to Saskatchewan by now! @PretzelsandBeer’s post ALONE would have killed me. ;)

  32. @Sam Ogden: What I found myself doing a lot was saying to myself “I should keep this because what if my eleven-month old daughter is in school years from now and needs to do a book report?! THIS book would be perfect!”

    Yeeeah. Maybe I should let her figure out what book she wants to do a report on when the time comes. Besides, if it’s the same book it gives me a chance to take her to the library ;-)

  33. I also want to add: Cookbooks.

    I’d rather have a paper book that can acquire water and oil splotches that add to its character than have to worry about getting food/liquid in a piece of electronics. :-P

    Oh, and @marilove — I DO have a cookbook buying illness ;-)

  34. @Stevie: Does she really have a psychological disorder or does she just really like books? My grandmother is fond of saying, “I’m not a hoarder, I’m a collector!” with more than a hint of irony, because she’s very aware that some people may take one look at her house, and think “hoarder!” I mean, she has a lot of shit. While her house isn’t huge, it seems much smaller than it actually is because nearly EVERY single empty space on the walls or table and counter tops is completely filled with books and collectible figures and pictures. She has a lot of clowns. A lot. Among other really random stuff. But it’s all very her, and she could probably tell you a story (made up or real) about everything in her house. I don’t think she’s really a hoarder, or at least not in the sense that she needs therapy. She just really likes clutter. And collecting ceramic chickens and clowns.

    I can’t live like that. So.much.crap!! My mom tends to “collect” junk as well (not even like my grandmother … just like way too much makeup and clothing and random gadgets from QVC that she’ll never use), but I tend to throw stuff out regularly, especially when I move. But, if I had the money and space, I’d probably have toooons of books. That’s one thing that’s worth collecting. :D That and lots of art.

  35. @marilove: Well, it was never diagnosed or anything so it’s only my speculation but it’s more than books — it’s EVERYTHING. He just happens to like books so they get combined with everything else. I really think it’s an emotional connection with all of the stuff — even nonsensical pieces of paper etc. None of it has a purpose either. It’s not a specific collection of stuff (other than the books) it’s just everything.

  36. @thracian-filly: As for preservation of personal copies, according to (American) copyright law, once you buy a copyrighted item (book, movie, cd, etc.) you have the right to convert that item into any new form you wish, as long as it’s for personal use (and as long as you don’t bypass the DRM).

    As of a few days ago you can now bypass DRM without violating copyright (according to a US federal court). Yay!

  37. @Stevie: I think people need to rediscover the library instead of buying books in electronic AND paper format.

    I don’t know about your library, but Houston public library has a number of electronic books, in addition to the paper library. Paper still leads (and it’s how I’m reading most of our “classics” shelf, which is a horrible misnomer), but electronic is easier to keep available, especially in a city the size of Houston. But for some things, it’s just easier to have a electronic copy… like my current trip through Northanger Abbey (in which I want to smack half of the cast; like Austen’s use of language, but her characters… *shudder*)

  38. @Mark Hall: Good point. I think that’s why it is nice to have both. While I don’t think electronic will totally replace hard copies eventually I do understand they fullfill a need (plus, my Mom just signed a contract to publish her e-book and I would like to see her continue to do so ;-) )

  39. Paper all the way. There is nothing like the feel of a book. New books, old books, well read books. I love the crispness of a new book, the smell of an old one, the things you find inside them sometimes when you get one from someone else or from a used book store.
    I can’t imagine a world in which I’m not surrounded by books. Their presence makes me feel grounded.

    Technology is great and I use it often. In fact, in a few more weeks I’ll be a graduate student exploring how technology can help mild to moderate special ed student overcome their disabilities. But while technology is great at making things easier, i won’t let myself, or anything important to me, depend entirely on technology. Power gets interrupted, some kid in Timbuktu sends out a virus nothing can beat, you drop it, it gets stolen….
    With books, it’s more of a sensory thing, though. There is no connection with an ebook for me. I could do reference books in eform, but anything else just seems wrong. I need to smell it, touch it, feel that this book is different from that one in more than its contents.

    I have two dreams in life, really. The first is to one day walk into a bookstore and buy any and all books that catch my fancy, nevermind how overpriced they may be or how many employees will have to follow to push my carts/carry my baskets around the store. The other one is to own a house with about 5 extra rooms. They’ll be outfitted with floor to ceiling bookshelves on all walls. One room will hold my reference books, including my teaching books. Another will have children’s books. The third one will have the fiction, then non-fiction for the fourth and the fifth will have the books i’m currently reading or want to keep where I can easily reach them. My favorites, if you will. And any new stuff I haven’t organized into shelves yet. Bookcrossing books that have just arrived, or are on their way out.

    Anyway, I digress.

    As for the tree, only if it’s followed by a bowl of petunias.

  40. I can certainly see the value in e-readers, but I have no real desire for one, yet. I think the portability issue, when traveling, would be in their favor. A friend of mine heard an interview with the general who replaced Petraeus, and (according to my friend, I haven’t followed up) carries a 6000 volume library with him, even on forward deployments. I think that dude needs an e-reader. There are times when I do a lot of flying and stay away from home, libraries and bookstores for long periods. A kindle would be useful, but as I already have a laptop, ipod, digital camera and cell phone, with chargers, external drives, card readers, etc., I’m a little sick of carrying around all the expensive electronic crap. It is a substantial investment that has to be protected, has to be stowed somewhere safe from weather and especially theft. The one or two books in my backpack…not so much. I also love books. I love to peruse bookshelves, (mine and others). I love the way my sister has a shelf of books in her guest room so that if I stay there I can always find something great to read, and I like having a selection of books for various tastes in my house so a guest can do the same. I like to lend books to people, and borrow books. I, too, am a huge fan of cookbooks that can have wet fingerprints, spilled wine, and various spatters on the most used pages.
    As for the third option, I am a fan of audio books for driving, especially, and long drives would be very tough without them.

  41. Much like Improbable Joe and faith, I’m getting really good results by having ereader apps on my phone. I’ve found myself reading more now that I can whip out my phone and read a page here and there without worrying about carrying a book. Most of the major online sellers have an app now.

  42. It’s been mentioned above, but definitely paper for cookbooks. Anything that can’t get wet doesn’t belong in a kitchen.

    The way my memory works, I can remember where a bit of information I need is on a page and generally where that page is in a book, i.e. near the bottom of the page just past the middle of the book. I can’t see that transferring to an e-book.

    @Stevie: After a recent death, I had to clear a small rental ranch house of tons (literally, 20 to 21) of accumulated stuff. I don’t have any good advice for you, but if you’re concerned I’d keep and eye on that. In retrospect, the house I spent over a week working in was definitely a hazmat situation. I couldn’t imagine living there for years, there is a real health concern when hoarding reaches a certain point. Hell, that place still haunts me on occasion.

  43. While a Kindle or iPad would definitely save space. I am desperately trying not to spend so much money on books and have been using my local library for my reading pleasure. So while I love the gadgets, none for me. :(

  44. I love paper books: the texture of the paper under my fingertips, the scent of old leather bound books, the heft and weight of a cherished tale that I read over and over… Oh how I love paper books.

    That being said, I adore a good audio novel. I love it when someone tells me a good story that draws me in, leaves me holding my breath and digging my nails into the upholstery as the hero struggles to prevail.

    They both have their charms.

    I see the benefit to ebooks. I’m just not sold on them yet.

  45. Paper definitely, for any number of reasons – feel and smell and the ability to read in the bath without fear of destroying machinery. I do read on my phone, but only in exigent circumstances. The e-readers I’ve seen all seem to be grey-on-grey; I prefer more contrast.

    Moving w/our book collection is a terrifying thought, tho’ we’ll have to in the next year or so, as we’re planning on moving out of LA to somewhere where there’s air. Twentynine bookcases and counting…

  46. Well,my shelves are full and I switched to e-reader.Also now I won’t have to worry finishing a book on a trip and having nothing to read.Basically for me a book is a book.No matter in what I read it.

  47. I love books, I have thousands of books. I’m getting rid of them, and I’m not buying any new books that I can’t get in electronic form. I love books because I love reading, and I have found that I am much more likely to actually read a book if I have it in electronic form. I can carry thousands of books with me. I can read the same book on my phone, iPad or Kindle, and the reading position synchronizes, so I’m never without my books, and I can always continue reading where I stopped, regardless of where I am and what device I have. I also tend to take notes while reading, so my paperbacks are full of post-it notes; making a note into an electronic book is much more convenient, since I can search my notes, I can copy and paste notes, and I can access my notes from all of my devices.

    It simply makes no sense for me to also carry paperbacks with me. They take up too much room and are nowhere near as convenient as ebooks.

  48. I love my e-reader. I have a Sony e-reader. I have a chronic illness which gives me a lot of muscle and joint aches/pains. My eBook reader has been a weight lifted — literally! I have been reading Lord of the Rings and the reader is definitely much lighter than a copy of that book. This has helped me reduce my discomfort in bed.

    Electronic books themselves are brilliant. I love that so many old classics are available free online. The instant accessibility, searchability and ease of use make this format preferable for me in many cases.

    That said, I do still enjoy the physical feeling of a book. Books still win hands-down when it comes to reference texts. I am a chemistry postgraduate and use many textbooks for my course. Current e-reader tech simply could not reproduce the feel and utility of a large textbook. I would love these to be available for perusing on a PC screen, though. Often I have been forced to heft around a > 1000 page textbook which could easily have been stored as a file on a memory stick, saving me a lot of effort and space!

    One final point — I think eInk is preferable over LCD/OLED displays for eBook reading. I read a lot in bed to send me to sleep. Bright displays have the opposite effect, waking me up. Also these backlit displays drain more batterylife, reducing the utility of the eBook.

  49. Paper books, definitely.

    One, as @Tanstaafl56 noted, the tactile feel of it works for me.

    Two, I’m clumsy. I don’t worry about dropping a book in the sand if I’m at the beach. And while you can spill a drink on a book, you can’t crack the display. When I fall asleep while reading a book and drop it on the floor, I’m risking a bent page or maybe a cracked spine (but I usually read myself to sleep with paperbacks anyway).

    Three, to quote Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

    Books smell. Musty and, and, and, and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer, is, it … it has no texture, no context. It’s there and then it’s gone. If it’s to last, then the getting of knowledge should be tangible, it should be, um… smelly.

    Four, the artistry of a book. The choice of fonts and layout, illustrations and plates that are wonderfully detailed, the color of the binding and the design of a bookcover (think of the wrap-around design for the US Harry Potter #7 cover – it never looks as cool online). All of these are inherently pleasing and don’t necessarily translate well to an e-reader.

    Finally, you can’t get a signed first edition of an e-book from an author you really love. Well, I mean you could get an image of their signature, I suppose, but that’s not the same.

    There are one or two modern authors I love and I have complete sets of signed first editions. I have some books that are actually worth a fair amount of cash if I ever want to sell them, and in going over my Mom’s library with her recently (she’s got metastatic cancer, so she’s trying to cover important stuff with us), turns out she has some signed first editions that would yield mid 4 figures.

    Yes, books are heavy and space consuming – but I love my books. I have a 30-year-old tattered copy of “The Little Prince” given to me by my godmother when I turned 10 that is one of my most treasured possessions. I have a shelf that is taken up by Sabuda pop-up books (try doing those with a Kindle). Don’t get me started on my art exhibition and major jewelry auction catalogs.

    I’m a usability consultant by trade now, and there are just some things that are simply more comfortably done not on a video display. Reading and looking at pictures is actually near the top of the list.

    I will say I’m for e-readers when it comes to periodicals. I think that makes a lot of sense since they can REALLY take up room over time. But all the above still applies – sometimes you need the paper version to review the information well.

  50. I love a book. I mean, I looooove a book. I enjoy the feel, the smell and just sitting, gazing at the bookshelves in my apartment.
    However, I just bought a Nook because I simply don’t have the physical space for any more books. I recently went so far as to pull out 200 books that were only so-so and that I know I’ll never read again and give them to charity, but a) it feels like giving away an internal organ and b) all it did was clean up all the stacked books that wouldn’t fit on the shelves.
    So, for me at least, an eReader is a must; even if it’s not as tactilely or aesthetically satisfying.

  51. I am all about the paper books. I love my bookshelves, and I love other people’s bookshelves. I have considered converting to digital, like I did with music a few years back, but I just can’t bring myself to go that way with books. I have considered the e-reader, most notably because of the traveling convenience. However, I like being able to really only carry one book with me, as it ensures that I read that book, and dont get distracted by starting another one.

    The reason I have not made this leap yet is the technology just isn’t where I want it to be. I don’t want to have to carry my laptop and e-reader separately. When the ipad like technology makes another leap or two forward, with the option to expand memory, have usb ports, function as a portable computer, and be an e-reader that can also read all of the PDF’s I need for academia, then I will probably consider getting one. But just an e-reader on its own, not really something I have a need for.

  52. For me it’s both.

    For ease of lifting, I love the Kindle. Try reading a 1200 page hardback and holding it up with one hand. I also publish on Kindle, so it’s nice to be able to check manuscripts on the actual device.
    It’s also great to be able to read free samples of damn near anything, on the device, without driving anywhere. And being able to search, and having a built-in dictionary, and built-in text to speech are also nice qualities.

    I still love books, but I see no reason to choose.
    They both have unique advantages and disadvantages.

    And with the price of eBook readers dropping daily (I paid $189 for mine), it was just too hard to pass up.

  53. @davew: I only read ebooks, and I always buy them, never “rent” them (a la Kindle). I buy books in either open format, or using eReader DRM. I know, DRM sucks, but this is really not that bad for DRM; it uses the credit card you purchased the book with as the unlock key. If you trust a friend with that, you can loan them your book :) (or, type it into their device instead).

    I read mine on a Palm T3 (though I am starting to use my phone, too), and have been doing it that way for over a decade – and I am closer to 50 then 40, so I don’t think its an age thing.

    I read many hours a day, too, and never have eye strain problems. I think you just get used to it. Holding a paper book now seems awkward and uncomfortable to me.

    I especially like having my books with me where ever I go. I can read while waiting for an elevator, on a plane, in line, what ever. I also like that you can tap a word and get a dictionary definition for it.

    So I am solidly in the eBook camp.

  54. @PretzelsAndBeer:
    If I may reply…
    “Scenario 1: You’re on vacation, drifting in a rowboat on a pond reading a new e-book. You shift positions, drop your book in the water, and boom. You just lost you entire library.”

    This is not true. Copies of all my ebooks are on my laptop (and are backed up nightly). Copies of them are also on an SD card in my reader. If I lost that, I would buy another SD card for $8, and copy my books back onto it.
    If I needed to by another reading device it would cost more, but would not affect my library at all.

    “Scenario 2: It’s July, 2020, and you remember a good book you read 10 years ago and want to read again (this has happened to me). You go find your old e-book, which has been obsolete for 8 years. It doesn’t work and no one can fix it or recover what was on it.”

    Ebooks are content, nothing more. I have reader software for my ebooks that runs on Macs, Windows, my phone, my Palm, Android phones, iPhone phones, iPods, and iPads, and other platforms. There are open source readers fro my format, too. It is unlikely to become obsolete. I have books on my reader that I purchased 13 years ago, and I can still read them.

    “My prediction; hardly any book published only as an e-book today will exist in 20 years.”

    This may well be true, but it’s because very few books are published in ebook format only today. My prediction: after 20 years from now, paper books will be like vinyl records and film cameras today.

    “Paper an ink are still the most stable and long-lasting technology.”

    Things change; this statement will not be true in the not-too-distant future.

  55. I have books my grandmother gave me. They are older than me.

    Will people have the same electronic device to read books in, say, ten years? I don’t think so. I don’t mean not one single person will have the same, just in case anyone respond this comment saying ‘hey, what about me?’. I’m making a broad generalization. I’m sure some people still have a Game Boy, too.

    Ebooks, MP3 players, home theater systems, even cellphones, all this sort of stuff is part of the fast-food, disposable, single-use culture we live in. I’ve heard how gamers complain about having to buy an expensive new graphics card every two years so they can play new games. Things are not meant to last anymore. I don’t like the feeling that I’m using a disposable piece of crappy plastic that I’ll have to sell in no time (remember how you had to sell your old grab’n’go because it wouldn’t play high definition movies? And you will sell your old Ereader because it only supports black and white and so on), so I buy books and vinyl records. They’re expensive but they will last more than I will.

  56. I have to say that I don’t understand the seemingly-common conception that people are either book-lovers or e-book-lovers. After all, I consider myself to be both.

    I love the smell of a book, the feel in my hands — especially for well-bound hardcovers. But I also like to read a lot.

    I own and love a Kindle 2. It lets me always have a book with me — something that paper books make somewhat more challenging. When I travel for work, it’s a livesaver to know that I can take dozens of books along, and not worry about running out of reading material. And combined with Instapaper, it’s a great way to catch up on longer writing I find on the web.

    But the Kindle doesn’t replace books in all cases; mostly, it replaces the mass-market paperback (which is an exercise in discovering how cheaply a publisher can print a book and still sell it).

    What excites me about the Kindle (and to a lesser extent, the iPad, which I just don’t like as a book reader — I mean, it does that too, but it feels tacked-on to me) is twofold: the potential to replace the mass-market paperback, thus making the kinds of books I read in that format both cheaper and more eco-friendly; and the renewed access to archival (e.g. Gutenberg) and niche (i.e. publishers wouldn’t risk a print run) material.

    But I think there will always be a place for books-as-objects; some books just deserve to be read from a beautifully printed and bound copy.

  57. Paper all the way! I just find that reading from a screen feels cold and impersonal. I need to have the book in my hands to properly enjoy reading it. I’m the same with music and I only got an mp3 player this year because I just loved my CDs too much. Having it all on one device just isn’t the same!

    @gwenwifar: That’s my dream for my house too! It’s a long way off now but one day when I can afford the house of my dreams it’s going to have a huge library. :D

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