Books? Ebooks? Both?

Michael Hyatt says he is switching back to books:

My goal for 2015 was to read twenty-six books. I ended up only finishing twelve. Worse, I actually bought 106 new books. I realize I can’t blame my failure to read more all on ebooks, and I don’t want to. But I do think they were a contributing factor. Here’s why, and for me these eight reasons are why I’m going back to physical books this year.

Tim Challies disagrees with Hyatt,and answers each of his eight points. He is selling his library—I would love to be at that sale!—and going all in with ebooks:

Michael Hyatt recently wrote about his decision to put ebooks on the shelf for 2016 and to instead return to printed books. Ironically, this article helped seal my decision. Hyatt gave a whole list of reasons that ebooks are inferior to printed books and, while I read the article with interest, I disagreed with almost all of it. I think he may have fallen into a common trap we encounter when we transition from an old medium to a new one. We tend to want the new medium to mimic the old one and judge the new in light of the old. What we fail to account for are the ways in which the new is superior, in which the new is something entirely new. When cars were first invented, people called them “horseless carriages” and judged them in light of the horse and carriage. But over time they proved their superiority and we forgot all about that older technology. We stopped thinking about the new technology in reference to the old. I think the relationship of book to ebook will eventually prove similar.

Over the past seven or eight years, since I first got a Kindle, I have gone back and forth on this. The idea of having my entire library with me at all times sounded wonderful. It still sounds good to me in theory—my books instantly available, without bulk and weight, giving me the ability to read any book, any time. My reality has been more like Michael Hyatt’s—distraction and less focused reading with an ebook. If a page or two of my ebook fails to capture my attention, I find myself giving  up more easily. In a physical book, I can flip forward a few pages and see what is coming, or, honestly, how long before this chapter ends. I need that motivation to slog through more difficult passages sometimes. Even more, the ability to search inside those books sounded like a bibliophile’s dream. The reality is I almost never do that.

On the other hand, I listen to a lot of audiobooks, often when I am driving, or making supper, or even taking a shower. (Yep, it’s true – I have a waterproof speaker. Over the top, I know.) The Kindle app on  my smartphone is very handy for highlighting passages I want to enter in my commonplace book or note for future reference in my writing. This works best when the book and the audiobook sync, as Audible and Kindle books often do. And it also works best when I am not driving. 😀 Ideally, I review highlighted  passages every day or two—or at least weekly—and enter them into my commonplace book or make a note in my journal to do so. Honestly, this is a discipline I need to improve. When I finish a book, I cut and paste the highlighted passages to Evernote and tag them in various ways.

The physical space books occupy in my home is actually a delight, not a burden, to me. Books and bookcases abound in my home—not an overlarge house, but nicely medium-sized cottage. My first consideration in filling a room is where the bookcases go. So if space were at a premium, I’d be searching Pinterest for “bookcases in small spaces.” That reminds me; I need to gently bring that bookcase-built-into-the-staircase wall plan I’ve been mulling back to my husband’s attention. Like this, except—you know—with books.

So many considerations—the importance of text on page in aiding memory, the sensory experience of the book in my hand, that irreplaceable old book smell, and more. My modest library in my little cottage may prove a treasure trove to my grandchildren or great-grandchildren someday. They may enjoy—or enjoy laughing at!—my marginalia. In fact, I dream that they will add their own marginalia to mine in those books someday. Multi-generational marginalia in an ebook? Not so much.

A more sinister thought, having just finished Animal Farm, is that censoring (revising, altering, updating) an ebook is a very easy thing to do. Said grandchildren may need access to the originals someday for far more serious reasons.

Overall, I find myself agreeing with Michael Hyatt on this. If a book is worth my reading time, it is worth owning, unless it is just too expensive. I’ve had great success with used books from Paperback Swap and Amazon Marketplace as a way to keep the costs down. Still, I want to make smart use of technology, and discipline myself to use it well as in the instance of my audiobook/kindle/commonplace triad.

What about you? Books? Ebooks? Both?

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3 thoughts on “Books? Ebooks? Both?

  1. I much prefer real books, honestly. If I’m reading fluff, or something I’m not concerned with retaining, I don’t mind reading on my iPad. I have quite a few books on there, actually. I have found that I like the weight, smell, and feel of real books and I would hate to only have an e-reader to keep me company. Occasionally, if I run out of money or can’t find a school book affordably, I will put it on iPads for my children, but they (my high schoolers) prefer real books, too. I try to accommodate that as much as I can.

    I do tend to try to have books for school on my iPad, because I can usually find it, and I tend to wander around with books. Rather than spend time looking for them, it’s helpful to have them available electronically. I can’t always have real AND electronic books, but I do find it a nice luxury when I can.

  2. There really is something about reading from printed text that helps me to comprehend what I am reading. I don’t read well from and e-reader. I’d love to know the science behind it, or if it is just me.

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