We’ve all done it. We’ve been baited into an argument about the best way to read a book. Paper only! many say. The feel, the smell, the heft, the marginalia, the tradition! It must be paper.
Wait! say those with electronic readers like Kindle. I get to carry a whole library in my bag, adjust the light as needed, not to mention the font, and can download to it 24/7.
Then there are the ambitious multi-taskers who can paint a whole house while listening to audio books. They set a book on 2.0 speed and Donald Duck their way through it in record time always arriving at book club having finished the book.
The arguments often take the perspective that one form of reading is somehow intellectually more worthy than the others. That’s normally those in love with paper -- the purists who will leave their personal libraries to “the kids” who will unceremoniously set them on the curb or toss them in the Shred-X truck when the library doesn’t want them. (Yes, the library has standards for donations. Check with any of our librarians.)
But for those of us who use all three, it’s never a question of which format is best. It’s a question of matching the book with the format.
I’ve certainly read books my whole life and ordered a Kindle the very day I first laid eyes on one, back when they were $360. (There’s a price to be paid for being fashion forward with tech.) I have since been through a bunch of Kindles. I was late, however, to the audio game, but I’m on board now. So, let’s consider how we make these decisions if we’re willing to read in multiple formats.
Let’s start with audiobooks. Why did I refuse to listen to them until around three years ago? I think it was fear – fear that I couldn’t follow the plot closely enough, that I had no written text to flip back and forth to check things, fear that no reader would match the voice in my head. By the way, these fears are all valid. But choice is everything.
My first foray into audiobooks was the Barbara Bush biography, Matriarch. It was perfect. There wasn’t a plot other than the chronological story of a public person’s life. It was thus easy to follow. If I missed some facts along the way, so what. And audio book readers these days are artists. The best ones have their own following. It’s why we can listen to a sample of an audiobook before we download it.
I am now willing to listen to a biography or non-fiction book since I don’t have to pass a test on it. I’ve discovered my brain does follow along even in fiction just fine if the plot isn’t too labyrinthine. (I will confess that once or twice I’ve fallen asleep and awakened a chapter or two ahead. I assumed my unconscious brain picked up on it, and so I just kept going. It didn’t seem to matter.)
When do I want a paper book? I still enjoy, of course, wandering through the library and having a book catch my fancy based on title, cover art, author’s name, anything, and checking it out. All the things the book purists think are true. A book has heft, a great smell, and there is visceral joy in the act of turning the paper page. If I even imagine teaching a book (not so much for the past few years), it has to be paper. I need to write in it, re-read passages over and over so that they’re right on the tip of my brain anytime. Only paper will do.
Everything else I read on Kindle whether from the library or not. I need bigger font now. Kindle lighting is perfect. And it’s true I don’t have to think what book to take with me anywhere.
No matter how you like to read, we’ve got you covered. If you need any help finding a different format than you’re used to, please stop in.
See you at the Library!