Kindle vs paper
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Lifestyle, TechnologyPaper, plastic screen or audio? Why not to fear the changing face of books.

Living in an apartment means that space is limited at this leads to the occasional clear out of clothes, old pots and pans, and most recently DVD’s and books. Before the bibliophile’s get up in arms, please be prepared to hear me out. I do love books, I enjoy reading and I confess that over the last few years, it’s something that has fallen by the wayside a bit in my life. When once a good fantasy novel or murder mystery was ever-present, more recently it’s been process guides, board meeting minutes or when I get a chance an interesting biography.

Not that there’s anything wrong with changing what we read, but the point is that we keep reading. The assumption today, founded or not, is that books are dying a death and kids are not reading at all any more. This says nothing for adults who may have lost the joy of a good read and because of life and time constraints just can’t pick up something and consume the glorious words.

They make no b-b-b-beeps

They make no b-b-b-beeps

About 6 months ago I had a moment where I was clearing off a shelf to free up space and I put a stack of books into a box to donate to a charity shop and I realized a small layer of dust was present even on titles that I really loved. This got me thinking, am I still reading enough. Short answer, no. Next question, how do I fix this issue? I decided that any books that I was going to give away I was going to buy on Kindle and make an effort to read again. Smart, I thought, make my love of gadgets and technology responsible for making sure I read more, you’re cunning Mr. Byrne.

This did not pan out as I planned, and although I freed up a lot of space, I ended up purchasing all my books for a second time and simply moving them to a digital format. If it seems a bit redundant you’re right. The OCD side of me loved that I still technically had the books, but the economist inside me screamed, why are you spending money effectively re-buying books? Was I ever going to read them again, or was I simply hanging on to them to make myself feel better?

I thought about this long and hard, before I decided to force myself one day to open up my tablet and start reading one of the titles from years ago. Something strange happened though which knocked me back. I was sitting reading when someone I knew who was very much a book lover came in and sat next to me. They commented on the screen displaying a ‘page’ of text and he asked why I didn’t have the real book. ‘Reading from screens just isn’t the same’ he proclaimed, you just don’t get the same experience.

I almost immediately went down the typical replies and protestations like ‘better for trees’, ‘I can carry more books this way’ to an almost blanket reply of ‘leave me alone I’m a techie guy’. I realized very quickly that in a way we were arguing, all be it in a round about way, the same thing. Reading is good. books are still a relevant medium, and it occurred to me that instead of having the age-old argument, which has been going on since, oh I dunno, the mid 90’s of screen versus paper why not be happy we’re reading.

Yes, there are those who would think it heaven to have a library full of books reminiscent of the library given to Belle in Beauty and the Beast and to live out the fantasy of a life spent reading the great works, but let’s face it, most people are busy and on the go constantly. The commute to work on the bus or the evening where we’re just tired of the TV screen seem to be the only time most of us can dedicate to this pursuit, so I think if technology can make this a little easier, surely we should drop the snobbery of ‘it should be a real book’ and remember that it’s about the written words and not the medium on which its delivered. Provided it’s not a terrible movie adaptation.

More recently I’ve moved to Audible, which has had two benefits, some of my kindle books can be read straight away and secondly I can now ‘read’ hands free. This means that I can be doing the cooking or cleaning the apartment, replying to an e-mail or even changing the baby and still be taking in novel. When I walk down the street now, the usual classic rock has been replaced by a science-fiction epic or the biography of an entrepreneur I really like.

Almost immediately I’m reading more, I’m taking more in, and more than that I’m buying more books. As the device senses I’m coming to the end of a book, it starts suggesting similar titles by other authors and even genres that I would have not leaned towards previously. At first I was worried that the adverts and suggestions in the apps would annoy me in the same way that TV and online ads frustrate, but the more I read, the better and more targeted they are.

Too many school books

Too many school books

Now I’m happily consuming 2+ books a month which may not seem like much, but it’s a huge jump from where I was. I also got to thinking about books as something that takes up space and how I’ve long advocated that children going to school should have cheap tablets with their text books rather than having to carry the heavy loads that I remember on top of gym gear, stationary etc. Maybe the biggest obstacle there is that the publishers can’t get you and the schools to buy new ‘revised editions’ every few years, but there is something to be said there for a subscription based school book service.

The big thought though is, if we can get people reading, why should it matter if they use an audio book service, a tablet device or go for the paper back? I’m sure the puritans out there will still be shouting at the screen that it’s not the same, but, lets step back. You’re reading this on a screen right now and although I may not have a snazzy dust jacket or a fore word from Stephen King, you’re still reading.