The other day I came across an article from the New York Times that talked about how, contrary to belief, the sale of physical books are actually on the rise while the sale of e-books are in a decline. The premise and substance of the article came as a shock to me as I had long assumed the opposite was true. I thought that given enough time, books would go the way of CD and disappear in my lifetime; which made me sad. As I finished reading the article I was glad to see that I could be wrong, but it also had me considering my own reading habits and how they have evolved over time.
Like most people of a certain age I grew up in a world where there was only one way to read a book and that was by buying a physical copy. My parents encouraged my love of reading at an early age and I relished a trip to the bookstore. Since I grew up only reading physical books I never put much thought into what made them special. Then as I reached my twenties the rise of e-books started and people began to read on electronic devices, rather than a book. I did not make the jump to reading devices for some time; the idea of reading off a screen felt foreign to me. I couldn't put my finger on it right away but eventually it became clear to me why I did not prefer this new method of reading; no matter how technologically advanced, there is just no way to replicate reading a physical book. When I read a book I like to know what page I'm on and not a percentage of completion. I especially like never having to worry about if my book is fully charged so I can read it. On top of the act of reading there are other reasons why I also prefer an actual book. I look forward to bringing my son to a book store as he gets older and buying him a book that catches his eye; I love having a library of my own at home filled with my favorite books, and finally I still like the idea of finding the perfect book for someone as a gift. I'm sure lots of people have their reasons for why they prefer a book over a device, but those are mine.
For all the reasons I mentioned of why I prefer physical books over e-books, a few years ago I did finally relent and buy an Amazon Fire. While I do now sometimes read an e-book over a physical copy, it still has not become my dominant method of reading. I find that I only purchase an e-book if the price is really worth it or the book I want is exceptionally long and it is just easier to carry around a device than a 1,000 page book. On top of books, I did also finally start buying comics on my device, but that was more for convenience as I just do not have the time to go to a store simply to get a single issue of something.
There is one final reason why I still love reading real books and it comes down to community. I like bringing a book out to read when I am in public, because you never know who may pass by and strike up a conversation over what you are reading; this is something that cannot happen if you are reading a book on a device. As I read the New York Times article I guess I should not have been too shocked about the facts as I assume many book lovers are a little like me, where they use a reading device on occasion but have never allowed it to stop them from still buying an actual book. Over the holidays while I was at a “Barnes & Noble” I wondered if this would all be gone someday, and while I don’t know the answer about that particular company surviving, I do now have more hope that physical books will somehow find a way to survive this digital age.