Monday, January 7, 2013

Reading: Choose Your Media

Is the question of what you're reading as important as how you're reading?

Publishers and naysayers are whipping up a frenzy, comparing print books to parchment and printers to scribes. Paper is old-fashioned and print readers are out of touch with the times, they want to tell us.

Readers know better.

Naysayers need to let it go. There's a benefit to both e-readers and the printed book.

I have both and enjoy both. Some books I have in both formats, including some classics like A Christmas Carol and recently published books such as Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

Then there are the inexpensive e-books that sounded too good to pass up, like Gregor the Overlander (by The Hunger Games author Susan Collins) and Random Harvest by James Hilton (author of Lost Horizons and Goodbye, Mr. Chips). With one click, I owned fascinating reads I could carry with me in my purse.

Also, there's the magazine advantage.  I can read The New Yorker anywhere now, and pretty soon the same will be said about National Geographic. Will the pictures of NatGeo be as incredible on the screen? I'll let you know.

Finally, there's the library option: just last week I figured out how to check out books from My Library. Frankly, I love actually going to my library and perusing the shelves, but when I can't get there, it's nice to know I have options. Also, there's something decadent about downloading a book to my Kindle when the library is closed, as though I'm part of a special club that doesn't have to wait for something as restrictive as "operating hours."

Does this mean I'm eschewing print? Not likely: after today's visits to Target and Barnes and Noble, where I walked out with a second copy of The Night Circus (because my copy was in Carole's hands) and my first (coveted) copy of The Wrath of Angels, I'd say I'm still entrenched in print.

The reasons are many. I like the feel of books in my hand. I can read a book anywhere, even when a plane is taking off and landing. I don't have to charge their batteries. I like to see illustrations and photos at full-size (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children comes to mind). When I drop them, rarely do they break. I don't have to upgrade them (although lately I've chosen to try to find better copies of some of the cheap paperbacks of my college days so their pages don't fly away along Dewey Beach, for example).

My main reason, however, is because I want to own the book. My digital purchase does not grant me ownership of the copy on my Kindle, but what Jonny Evans from Computer World called  "lifetime track rental." Although his description was for music, it could just as easily be applied to books.

Remember the 2009 brouhaha when Amazon removed 1984 from Kindles without seeking permission from the Kindle owners? Sure, the company refunded the purchase price and explained the reason behind it, but it didn't mollify readers. I suppose there's a way to create a permanent copy of a digital file, but it's not the same as walking into your own library and pulling your copy off the shelf.

Want to loan an e-book? Good luck. Publisher must establish loaning rights to a title, and e-books can be loaned once for 14 days. (Those are Kindle's rules. Nook just states that titles can be loaned between devices.) The good news is you always get it back. The bad news: your friends, family, acquaintances better read fast. (This might spell trouble for my use of library e-books, considering I regularly renew library books as many times as I can.)

In the end, there's room for print and electronic books on everyone's library shelves. Users can determine their own preferences and use accordingly — which may mean choosing both.

Do you have a preference? How do you read?

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