Jeff Jarvis, the author of What Would Google Do?, said in his book that “books are where words go to die.” He pointed out that books get thrown out when they are no longer needed and end up as trash or pulp, and that 40% of printed books published never get sold. He said that multimedia can be searched, updated or linked to and can be available to all online readers. He also implied that it is a much more sustainable option.
While it is true that books often become dust magnets on shelves, there is no substitute for print on paper, its feel on your fingers and the smell of a new book. We can’t achieve the same sensation while pressing the plastic buttons of the Kindle e-book reader or touching the glassy play button on an iPod to start an audio book. This got me thinking about how I have unknowingly changed the way I read books. I used to buy hard copies but now I selectively tend to read them as e-books or audio books (yes, I’ve thought about this one and I ‘read’ audio books).
Hard copies: It is greener to not buy books but some books can only be experienced on paper. Examples of these include my favorite Richard Meier monograph, or the beautifully illustrated Francis Ching book.
E-books: I buy e-books more for the convenience of being able to carry many books on an e-book reader without carrying the extra weight. I found that even though I buy graphic intensive non-fiction e-books, I end up buying a hard copy as well because it is easier to flip the pages and refer back to pervious chapters to view a chart or graphics. On a Kindle tables and charts do not display well.
Audio books: I tend to buy novels and other non-fiction books as audio books from Audible. If I feel there is reference material that I will need to refer to in the future I usually supplement it with an e-book or a hard copy. Audio books are fun because they are like listening to a performance such as a play on the radio. A disadvantage of audio books is that you aren’t able to visually see what chapter you are on (although an audio book is separated into chapters, unfortunately they don’t always correspond to the chapters in the book).
How have you been reading your books lately – hard copies, e-books or audio books?