The most common debate in the bookish community seems to be print books versus digital books. Everyone has a strong opinion one way or the other, even if they use both methods of reading.
Earlier today, I read an article from Lifehacker entitled, “You Don’t Own the Music, Movies, or Ebooks You ‘Buy’ on Amazon or iTunes.” To summarize the article quickly: if you purchase an ebook or other digital product from a company like Amazon or Apple, that product can be snatched away from you if the company loses their licensing rights on that product.
I had no idea that could happen, and it immediately got me upset. I have over 300 digital books on my Kindle, most of which I got through Kindle deals. I hate the idea of a book being removed from my device just because Amazon lost its license for it, especially if I paid full price for that item.
Now, this isn’t something that happens often, but the fact that it can happen should bring on conversations about physical and digital ownership of products.
Personally, I prefer the feel and weight of physical books, and if I really love a book and know that I’ll end up reading it more than once, I’ll purchase it. There are so many aspects of print books that make them superior to digital:
- Book design. Every time a book is published, there is so much effort that goes into every aspect of how that book will look; from the cover art, to typography, to the color of the edge of the page, to the dust jacket, and more. Books with illustrations and photographs are particularly frustrating; they rarely look anything but misaligned and out-of-place in a digital edition. When you read a digital book, you can obviously see the cover, but you miss out on everything else.
- Easier referencing and annotation. I must go through a thousand sticky notes a year. Every book I read, I fill with annotations and notes to myself. I know most e-readers have some sort of highlighting or note feature, but it’s much harder to use. Unless I’m specifically searching for something in an ebook that I need to reference, I’m going to forget to go back to all of those other highlights and notes that I’ve made. It’s just not as easy as seeing a sticky tab and opening the book to that page.
- You choose your cover art. One of the things I absolutely loathe about my Amazon Kindle digital purchases is that Amazon frequently changes the cover art. My biggest pet peeve in the publishing world are books with film-based covers. It feels cheap. I can’t tell you how many ebooks I’ve purchased with lovely covers, only to notice a few weeks later that the cover is a picture of Matt Damon or some other actor. With a print book, you choose the cover and edition you want, and it never changes.
- Print books are conversation starters. This one may seem silly, but I’m immensely nosy and love seeing what other people are reading. Asking someone about the book they’re reading is a great way to make new bookish friends. Every time I’m reading in a public place and a stranger walks up to me to ask me about the book in my hands, I get so excited and usually end up talking their ears off. When your face is buried behind an ebook case, however, no one can tell that you’re reading some marvelous book.
- Physical books won’t keep you up at night. A lot of research has been done on the effects that light from digital devices has on your sleep quality. Reducing screen time is good for everyone, and something to keep in mind if you read a lot of digital books.
- Travel. Last year I went to Chicago for a week to see Thia, one of my favorite people in the whole world. During the course of a week, I can usually finish anywhere from three to six books, depending on their lengths. The idea of packing six books with me and carrying them through airport security just sounded awful, and I didn’t want to deal with the extra weight. Instead, I downloaded about twenty books to my Kindle so that I could choose what I wanted to read based on my mood that day. E-readers make traveling with books so simple, and for that reason alone I think it’s a good idea for everyone to invest in one.
- Reading at night or when the power’s out. Okay, this is a silly one, but it’s important to me. I often find myself reading in the dark. Sometimes it’s while I’m in bed (yes, even if it is terrible for my sleep quality), or if I’m using public transportation at night, or just wanting to sit under the stars to read. With an e-reader, you don’t need to carry candles or lanterns with you. You just turn it on. My late-night reading has gotten so much easier since I was given my Kindle.
- Cheap or free books. I think this is the one that hooks a lot of people. Especially on Amazon, you have access to thousands, literally thousands, of free to super-cheap books. Every day, Amazon offers rotating daily deals, alongside monthly deals, and books you can read through their monthly subscription service, Kindle Unlimited. I would wager that at least 80% of the digital books that I own, I got at a very steep discount. Everyone loves a good deal, especially bookworms.
At the end of the day, everyone’s reading preferences are different, and you should stick to what works best for you. I think, for most people, relying on a combination of print and digital books is the way to go. What are your opinions on the topic? Share your thoughts below.