Paper or digital? That’s what I’d like to talk about today. The rise of digital books has really brought more people into reading and made it easier for us to read on the go with a simple and light e-reader holding a whole array of books at the touch of a finger. But are digital books really that good? Do you prefer them to the physically written word? Or is there a place for both in our worlds today?
My experience of digital books is actually pretty short compared to others. I’ve always had a passion for books but for years the word ‘book’ meant a physical object made of paper which I’d get by walking into a local bookstore or public library. I never really warmed to the idea of a digital book, it seemed a fun concept but nothing, in my mind, could replace a physical weighty tome of delicious smelling paper and print.
But something changed when I found a book I was interested in reading but I couldn’t get hold of the physical copy. I was desperate to read this book and took the plunge and got the digital version instead. Reading in digital felt weird at first. I couldn’t get used to the small size of the e-reader or the lack of that wonderful papery smell (I’m a bit of a book-sniffer!). But as time went on, and the story I read unfolded, I found myself engrossed in the words of the text. When I’d finally finished reading it I was amazed at how emotionally affected I was by the fiction I’d read. It was every bit as exciting and gut-wrenching as it would have been if I’d read a paper copy.
Thus began a love of both the physical print and the digital. I always found physical books, both paper and hardbacks more pleasing to read, but I no longer saw digital as ‘worse’. Searching for digital books brought me into the online world of books, somewhere I’d never really been before. Until then my life and association with books was firmly where I could go and physically take them home with me then and there. But digital books led me to a new world and one I’m happy I entered.
As a newbie to this new land I became obsessed with finding new books. It was easy to buy and download the digital tomes and I found myself searching, more and more, for free or discounted books. My e-reader grew ‘fat’ with new releases and I became a little click-happy with my mouse at NetGalley too, requesting far too many books for the time I had to read. Digital books didn’t take up the same shelf space as physical books so it was easy to end up with too many ARCs (advanced reading copies) without noticing them sitting in the corner of the shelf every day.
My love of digital books was short lived though. After a few years of reading on screens more than paperbacks, I started to get sick of it. It wasn’t just the beautiful book smell I missed (I mean really, really missed!) but the whole feel of having a book my hands. The view of words printed on paper, paper that could last for hundreds of years, and the way the pages never glared at me, it was something I couldn’t live without. It wasn’t just a want for the physical book but a need. I’ve never been good with screens and after many months of reading screens my eyes started to protest. I’d get headaches and nausea from spending long periods reading digital books, it became tiresome and painful to enjoy what should have been fun.
So today I read very few books digitally. I haven’t put a ban on digital books and can and do choose to still read some in times when I’m not feeling ill. But the fact is that these days I’m back to reading paper or hardbacks (Audio books are a completely different subject). I can feel the book in my hands, read without discomfort. I can smell a book repeatedly (I do this with magazines too – Am I weird!?) and flip all the pages over and over just because I like the sound it makes, and I can also take pictures of my books to stick on instagram.
I haven’t entirely turned my back on digital. I still read the odd NetGalley ARC, but these days if I want to buy a book I’ll stick with the paperback. Am I missing out on some great reads? Possibly, some books are only printed digitally. But the fact is I love a paperback or hardback book. I can’t get enough of them. There’s a definite place for digital books in our world and I can see the great benefits they bring to so many, the ease in taking digital copies to work, having hundreds and thousands of books at the touch of a button…
But in the digital versus paper argument I choose paper every time, I always have, I always will.
Which would you choose? Paper or digital? Is one really better than the other?
Do you love physical books or are you now a love of digital, or both? Let me know I’d love to hear from you 🙂 You can find me here too: