Wednesday, May 8, 2013

In My Hands

In my hands I have two copies of the same book--one on an e-book reader, one a paperback. Which do I choose?

* * *

I got a Kindle last year, mainly as an editing tool. I change my books into PDF and read them with notebook in hand.

I've gotten pretty used to the idea that I can "hold a library in my hand." Not that I buy many books (money being scarce at the moment) but it's nice to pull up a floor and pretend the world is going away for a while.

At the beginning of April I self-published Without A Voice, e-book only, and I realized something interesting. I didn't want to read it on the Kindle. I wanted to hold it in my hands, curl the pages, touch it.

This morning I got the first paperback copies, and it's very different to be reading my book in hard copy as opposed to the screen. I realized that on the Kindle I'm a casual reader--I'll get into a book, get bored with it, leave it and never come back. I never do that with a hard copy book unless the quality is absolutely abysmal. I can read hundreds of samples on the tablet and pick one or two that I like, but the samples just sit there. Once I close them, they're gone. I can drop a book and pick up another one as casually as I can pick up and drop a computer game.

On the other hand, a physical book is a constant reminder. It sits up and begs me to start reading again. It flaps its cover at me (figuratively speaking) and tells me I need to finish.

The quality of my reading is different as well. When I'm reading a physical book I'm totally immersed, the world could go up in flames and I might notice if my book caught on fire. With the e-book reader I'm about half as immersed. The world is still there, I'm listening to the traffic outside and smelling the fresh cut grass. I read with less than half my attention, especially if it's a book I've read before.

Audio-books are even worse. I think it's a sensory thing. When I'm reading on a tablet, my eyes are engaged. I can put the tablet down and it stays where it's put. I can't hear the pages when they turn, I can't touch them, I can't feel the difference between the cover and the interior pages. Audio engages only my ears. When I'm reading a hard-copy book I have to pay close attention to the book. It's in my hands, I have to physically turn the pages. Sometimes when reading my favorites I have to keep the pages from escaping. :)

There's contrast in the page quality, a different feel to the spine. If I put the book down I have to actually take action, put in a book mark or I'll lose my place. I have to focus entirely on the book. It's an interactive experience, far more interactive than anything else other than real life. A movie can't compare (eyes and ears are engaged) a video game, an e-reader, whatever.

When we read a hard-copy book, it forces touch, sight, hearing, sometimes even scent to engage. Nothing will ever replace that experience for me.

I think eventually hard copy books may lose their appeal to a large portion of the population, because most people are already casual readers. As the next generations move up and have never really experienced total immersion in a book, hard copy books may eventually phase out. I hope not, but it's possible.

For me it's hard-copy all the way and that probably won't change in the near future.

***The Indelibles hosts a monthly feature called INDIE LIFE. Modeled after Alex Cavanaugh's awesome Insecure Writer's Group, this is a chance for indie authors to post about indie life, find each other, offer support, encouragement, news, helpful hints, and anything else that makes life as an indie author a little easier.

What is Indie Life? How: Sign up on the Linky at The Indelibles. When: Post on the second Wednesday of the month. What: Write anything indie related: something that will inspire or help a fellow indie; something that celebrates a release or a milestone; something that talks about the ups and downs, joys and heartaches of Being Indie.


  1. I prefer hard copies too, especially of your own book! How cool would that be?

    1. Seriously cool. I was reading Without A Voice last night and didn't want to put it down...

  2. I've come to grudgingly accept my Kindle. It saves me a little money, especially on books that I'm not entirely convinced I'll enjoy. The reading experience is... acceptable.

    I think ebooks will be the way people read in the future, but I don't believe the printed book will ever go away. I think they'll continue to make them at the very least as collector's items.


    1. I think it'll be a while before hard copy books vanish entirely, if they ever do. There are just too many of them around to dispense with them entirely, and ALL the collectors editions are in print...

  3. That's interesting to think of how one might read differently between the two (print and ebook). I tend to read more on my Kindle, but it's more a matter of convenience (and to save myself from wrist-pain from holding a hardback). And sadly, I'm just not an audiobook person either. I'm so visual that I miss so much in an audiobook.

    But that is the nice thing about having different formats. People can pick and choose what works best for them. :)

    1. I've never been an audio-book person either. I mostly use my tablet for editing, but it's nice not to cart five books around with me when I go somewhere. :)

  4. Hi, Lauren, like you, I like paper books. However, I've had to adapt to the Kindle because books are much cheaper to buy that way where I live.

    1. Yes, e-books are often cheaper. Cheaper to produce as well as cheaper to buy. :) There are lots of reasons that people choose e- over hard copy.

  5. I like both my Kindle and my paperbacks. I'll read either in a serious way.

    Hugs and chocolate,