Friday, January 23, 2015

The Joy of Paper

I left my boots behind and headed back to sunny Southern California. For the whole plane ride home I was surrounded by sneezing and coughing, but I seemed to have made through without catching whatever all those people had. Yay!

Usually, I read a People magazine, do the crossword puzzle in it and then crochet for a while and then it’s time for the plane to land. But this time I was in the midst of reading a book and didn’t buy the magazine. As I flew through the night sky I was lost in a paperback and it made me realize why I like paper books so much more than e-books.

Personally, I find that I retain less when reading anything longer than an article on a screen. The page seems to float in the middle of nowhere, instead of seeing that the page is indeed part of a book. And when I think back to the books I’ve read, in my mind’s eye I see their covers in color. When I think back to the few books I’ve read in an e format, the only image in my mind’s eye are words on a white screen. I barely remember the title of the books or who the authors were, and I have no idea if they even displayed a cover.

Apparently, I’m not alone. I have read several articles that said that people retain less when reading e-books versus paper. And for people who like to read before they go to bed, e-readers can cause problems with their sleep. The light given off by the e-readers makes it take longer to fall asleep, messes with their circadian rhythms and makes them less alert in the morning compared to people reading paper books at bedtime.

The other thing that is downright creepy about e-books is that you are not reading unobserved. Someone out there can tell if you finished a book. And of course, someone is keeping track of what e-books you have bought. You don’t really own the book, but only have a license to read it. You can’t for example pass it on to a bunch of friends unless you hand over your device.

The whole argument about e-readers being so great for the environment because they save trees is kind of absurd. I doubt the batteries in them or all the plastic casing and whatever the screens are made out of is very good for the environment. Think all that pollution in China. And you can make paper out of bamboo which grows so fast you can almost see the shoots get taller.

My reading experience on the plane was great. I was truly lost in the book. There was no screen to go dark if I lingered on a page too long. When I went to the rest room I didn’t have to worry that someone might swipe my tablet or e-reader. (Apparently, stuff disappearing on planes is a real problem. Also if I had happened to drop what I was reading or even accidentally sit on it, I wouldn’t have had to worry about breaking an expensive item. There were no batteries to go dead. Nothing to interfere with the reading experience.

Yes, e-books are nice when you want a certain book right away and it’s the middle of the night. It’s a lot lighter to carry one device loaded with a bunch of books than it is to carry a bunch of paper books, but when it comes to the whole reading experience my first choice is a paper book.


Planner said...

Oh no--don't say anything bad about my wonderful e-ink Kindle!

The e-ink screens are a different experience from reading on a tablet. It's easy on the eyes (no problem at all reading before bedtime).

I do believe e-books are more environmentally friendly, especially when you count in all the books that publishers print up and never sell. There's only one plastic e-reader required to have the ability to read many books. There are no fossil fuels involved when an e-book is delivered.

My e-reader is already six years old and still serving me well. E-readers are no longer expensive devices. I love the built-in dictionary and the ability to annotate and highlight and adjust the font size to my liking. E-books are easier for me to read, and I don't know why retention would be any different (I'll have to look up those articles you mentioned sometime).

Best of all, I can buy as many books as I want without worrying about lack of shelf space in my house.

And...I've never gotten a paper cut from an e-book.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Not sure whether I retain more if I read in e-format or on paper, but when I edit my own stuff I use both. I do still prefer reading paper books, too, although I appreciate your description of some of the pros and cons of both, Betty.

Betty Hechtman said...

Planner, it's great that your Kindle works so well for you.

Betty Hechtman said...

Linda, when I get edits I like to print up the whole manuscript. I don't seem to e able to see things as a whole as well in an e version. The hard copy registers differently.

But I generally go through the copy edit on my computer.

Miriam Lubet said...

I agree with you about paper books. I prefer them and find them more satisfying. And I do carry them with me on vacation. I do have a nook and I read on it occasionally because I like to keep up with technology. As far as retention goes I discovered if the book is really good it doesn't matter what form I read it in. But I would rather read a paper book. And I love having my favorite books on my bookshelves so I can look at them. I feel like I am surrounded by old friends. My nook is not warm and cozy.

Melody said...

Well said! I enjoy the reading experience with a paper book much more than an ebook.

Betty Hechtman said...

Miriam, it sounds like you ejoy the best of both worlds.

Betty Hechtman said...

Melody, it seems like there is less to intefere with the reading experience with a paper book. I find I inadvertenly flip pages with ebooks and lose my place. And there is always the concern the battery will go dead.

Monica Ferris said...

I have a Paperwhite e-reader, and I like it, especially when I'm traveling. But I can't casually flip back to take another look as a point I halfway missed, and it's not easy to see how many pages are left - impossible when it's a collection of short stories or novels. Plus I've had the bad experience of settling in with a book only to have the warning come up that my battery is dying. Ugh!

Betty Hechtman said...

Monica, e-books are nice when you're traveling. I have both Kindle and Nook apps on my phone and tablet, so I don't have to carry even more devices.

I was shocked at how fast reading drained my Ipad battery.

Ramla Zareen said...


I came across this blog through Goodreads, in a Cozy Mystery Corner discussion of Cozy Mystery Blogs, when I went to post information about my own blog, and today finally got a chance to check it out. Anyway, I hope that it's fine that I comment here.

First of all I would like to mention that I LOVE to read ...mostly fiction, since it's a source of immense happiness for me. Though I read a wide variety of genres but I enjoy reading "Cozy Mysteries" the most. For this reason it's a pleasure for me to discover 'new-to-me' authors of this genre and to add their books in my TBR list ...which I was able to do so through your blog ...So thanks a lot...! :-)

Now, coming to the extremely interesting topic at hand, I would like to mention that I prefer proper paper books as opposed to electronic books. I myself don't know exactly why, but there's something about holding a book in my hand, a feel of paper as I flip each page and become more and more engrossed in the story ... all the while drinking a hot cup of tea and delicious chocolates....! Or maybe because I am just more comfortable with a paper book since that's how my hobby of reading got initiated in the first place when I was about 8 or 9 years old. Guess it's hard to get rid of more than 20 years of habit. Plus. I love to browse around in proper bookstores and spend hours and hours rummaging through the books. Needless to say, I always end up buying more than a few :-) And add the rest in my ever growing TBR list...! And yes, I also like the feeling of ownership that comes with buying a book and storing it in my personal bookshelf...!

Having said all this, I must admit that lately I have been seriously contemplating buying a kindle ....mainly because so many authors nowadays only publish in ebooks format and I don't want to miss out on good books...! Though when I mentioned this to my husband, he just rolled his eyes and said that he is sure that I will find some way of printing the ebooks in paper too ...and then read it...! And you know what, the idea has more than a little appeal for me :-)

Well anyway, again, thanks a lot for providing such a wonderful blog...! I am really looking forward to visiting it again soon :-)

Ramla Zareen