Why I Still Like Paper Books

May 23, 2011

stack of books, Ballard, Seattle, Washingtonphoto © 2007 Wonderlane | more info (via: Wylio)

Not long ago I wrote a post on the importance of reading books, even in the 21st Century. I want to follow up on that by sharing why I still prefer paper books to e-books, even in the midst of the e-book revolution. Recently Amazon revealed that e-books for their Kindle reading device now outsell paperback and hardback sales of books. I also have quite  a few friends who speak of enjoying their reading experience on their Kindles and iPads. And yet, I’m one person that has resisted the revolution. That’s not to say I’ll never buy a Kindle or some other device. I may. But as of right now, I prefer paper books. Here are a few reasons why:

1) Technology saturation. In his book, The Next Story, Tim Challies identifies “digital natives.” I’m one of those. I’ve grown up with technology. I live with an iPhone, I blog, I tweet, I’m on Facebook, I like my DVR, and I work most of the day on a new Macbook Pro. So I’m no Luddite. It’s actually because of this technology usage that I prefer the single-task of reading a book. It’s a fresh break from being plugged in. Call it digital saturation.

2) Low maintenance. I’m also resistant to buying an iPad or a Kindle because of the maintenance. Each new machine we bring into our lives may add convenience. But it also adds a level of maintenance. Batteries, charging stations, syncing, updating, outdating. This never happens with a paper book. You don’t have to turn it on, charge it up, update the firmware or software. You just pick it up and read it.

3) Handing off and borrowing. I read a ton of books. Many of them I pass along to others I know so they can benefit. I’m not sure how you do this in a digital world. I know the technologies are improving, so perhaps a swap/giveaway feature will solve this issue. But even so, can you replace the gesture of writing a nice note in a book and giving it away? Not sure.

4) Worry. Owning a Kindle means I’m responsible for it. It’s likely pricey, so I have to worry about how I store it, where I keep it, etc. A good book has some of this value, but the price point of a book is such that if you lost it, replacing it wouldn’t be so expensive. Now, I know with digital books, once you buy them, you have them, even if you upgrade or replace or lose your device. But when I carry a copy of a book around, I’m not worried about losing it as much as I would with a Kindle. Maybe this is somewhat lame. Not sure.

5) Skimming, Highlighting, Note-taking, Memorizing. If you read for research, as I often do, you understand the practice of skimming and memorizing. You skim until you find that place on the page. And subconsciously you memorize where you saw that information. Can’t do that digitally. Also, highlighting and note-taking–can you do this? I believe you can on an e-book reader, but I’m not sure if its as good as with a book.

These are just a few of the reasons I’ve, so far, resisted the digital revolution. It could just be that I’m a Luddite when it comes to reading. But having been a lover of books my entire life, I’m not ready to give up the unique feel, experience, and pleasure of cracking open a new book.

How about you? How do e-books compare to regular books in your experience.