As a reader, I do prefer physical books but I know that there are many advantages to reading e-books instead. In this post, I wanted to delve into my feelings about physical books and e-books because I have opinions about both formats. I don’t think that either one is ‘better’ than the other but I do have a preference.
I don’t listen to audiobooks, ever, so I’m leaving them out of this post because I just don’t have enough to say about them. I often find myself disassociating when I’m listening to them and then I snap out of it and have no idea what’s going on in the story. I’m not even sure why because I love podcasts and they’re essentially the same, right? The brain works in mysterious ways. I’m off-topic already and this post hasn’t even started properly. Let’s get back on track…
Physical books, both hardbacks and paperbacks, will always be my first choice when it comes to reading. I love seeing them on my shelves and just looking at them. I love the weight of them in my hands as I read. A physical book, for me, provides a connection between myself and the words on the page. I can feel the paper that they’re printed on and that’s a really important part of reading for me.
I do find that I can remember the story better if I read a physical book. I’m not sure why but I think it’s because I read slower when using a physical copy. I have a tendency to skim when I’m reading an e-book which, let’s be honest, isn’t great. I usually have to read chapters a couple of times to know what’s going on but I really don’t have that problem with physical copies. I get so immersed when I read physical that I look up from the page and I don’t know where I am or what I’m going. I’m pretty sure I’ve missed my stop on the train once or twice thanks to a good book.
I also collect old books. I have a few books from the mid-nineteenth century which I love more than life itself and I have a collection of Alfred, Lord Tennyson books from 1884 which are the best things that I have ever bought. I love knowing that they have a history to them which I’ll probably never learn. They’ve withstood the centuries and changes in taste, technology, and society in general. I really love working with old copies of books too. Special Collections at my university, which holds first editions of Edmund Spencer’s The Faerie Queene and other fantastic books from the medieval and early modern eras, is one of my favourite places in the world. I just love being surrounded by old books, knowing that so many people have read them before me. It’s really cool to find marginalia too. I will shut up about old books now. I should have just written an entire post about my love for old books. (Note to self: do this one day).
I must admit, however, that physical books can be an absolute pain in the arse. Especially hardbacks. Firstly, they take up so much space. I just don’t have any space left. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Secondly, it’s really difficult to travel with them. I often read on my daily commute and they can just be so awkward to handle on full trains. You cannot read hardback books on public transport. It’s just not possible. Please stop. Please. I’m begging you.
Considering everything I’ve just said about physical books, it may come as a surprise to know that I do use e-books on a regular basis too. I don’t have an e-reader, like a Kindle or whatever, but I read PDF and ePub versions of books on my phone and computer. I don’t find e-books as immersive as physical books but they definitely have their uses in my life.
I mainly use e-books in my PhD research. If I can find an electronic version of a book I need to read for my research then I will choose that over a physical copy from the library. There are four main reasons for this:
- I can keep the book forever once I’ve downloaded it rather than returning it to the library.
- I can search the document for keywords which helps me save time.
- I can highlight the sections that are useful to me and make notes in the margins. You’re not meant to do that in a library book.
- I can copy and paste the quotes that I need over from the electronic copy rather than writing it out myself.
As you can probably tell, I am a very lazy researcher but I think reading an electronic copy of a book puts me in a certain frame of mind. I become much more focused and critical because, for some reason, my brain sort of associates electronic copies with university work and research. If I had to use physical books for my research then I’d just never read them.
e-Books serve a very specific purpose in my life but I would never change that. I love using e-books in my research because they’re cheaper for the university, they’re easier to use, and I can still print sections of them out if I need to (which sort of defeats the purpose of an e-book but oh well).
Both physical and electronic copies of books are wonderful because you’re still reading a book either way and isn’t that the main goal here? I’m sure that everyone has a preference for one or the other (or even audiobooks!) but I really don’t think that one is better than the other. They’re equally amazing and I’m just glad that books exist.
Do you have a strong preference for physical, electronic, or audio copies of books? Which do you prefer and why? Or do you just like books in every form? Let me know!