“Do you prefer to read electronic books or paper books, and why?”

I’m thankfully old enough to remember and appreciate a world before electronic books, but that is not my reason for holding one preference over another.  It kind of is…but there is more behind it.  I would guess that, in my 35 years, I have only read a dozen books on some sort of e-device, which probably equates to about 0.35% of the 100% of books I’ve read in my lifetime.

I always feel a little pretentious when I share this personal fact, but I taught myself to read when I was 3 years old.  I loved stories as a little kid, and loved having stories read to me.  Problem was, my parents, grandparents, etc…. they didn’t always have the time to read to me!  Not to mention: one single story was never enough.  I wanted something read to me over and over again, and sometimes even back to back!

Because of this, even at only 3 years old, I knew I had to do something to try and satiate my insatiable appetite for stories, so I decided to teach myself to read and began by selecting the stories I knew from heart by having them read to me repeatedly.  I recognized some words, and knew what they meant and how they fit in the story, then I carried that over to other books by recognizing the same words peppered throughout them.  Any word that I did not know, I then learned because of how it stood out compared to the words I did know.  Over the course of weeks and months, I improved and got to where I could read on my own, which then meant unlimited stories for my hungry little brain!

Three years old was a monumental age for me in that my parents and I moved to Plymouth from Warsaw, I learned to read, and that was the age in which I got my first (and only) library card here at PPL.

By the time Kindergarten rolled around, I was one of only a couple kids in my class that could read on their own and in First Grade I was the first student in the entire school to read 100 books (I read more than 100 books but 100 was the goal).  By Second Grade, I was reading at a Tenth Grade level and spelling at an Eighth Grade level.  My desire for reading could not be tamed, and it was all because of paper books!

Second Grade for me was in 1992, and the only hand-held technology that existed were the giant cell phones that cost $3,000 each, like what Zack Morris used in “Saved by the Bell.”  Nintendo Gameboys and Sony Walkman/Discmans also existed, but there was no e-anything!  Reading would have been inherently different for me had there been.

From age 3 until now (32 additional years and counting)…I can’t recall a time when I didn’t have a book with me.  I realize that may sound like hyperbole to some, given that it is somewhat of a cliché to say, but it’s the truth!  I take a book with me everywhere I go.  If it isn’t with me physically, like on my person or in a backpack/tote bag I have with me, then I leave it in either my car or whatever car I happen to be travelling in.  Some people feel naked without their wallets or their cell phones.  I feel naked if I don’t have something to read with me!

I’ve tried e-books and it just isn’t the same.  Whether you believe it or not, there is a huge difference between having a book in your hand and having a computer in your hand.  I’ve owned my fair share of electronic devices over the years.  Different versions of iPods and iPads, laptops, cell phones…none of them ever screamed “reading device!” to me.  They were/are just hand-held computers and nothing else to me.  I still own an iPad Mini.  It is so out of date I can’t even install or update apps on it anymore.  The only reason I’ve kept it is because it has some music and some stand-up comedy videos that I downloaded long ago and only have them on that device.  There are also a handful of e-books in my iBooks account that I swear I’m going to read soon…even though they’ve been on there since 2013 and I’ve yet to start one.  I don’t want to lose those items stored on it, but I have no real use for it anymore.  It just does not hold the sentimental attachment to me that books do.

My hunger for reading has not waned any in all of my years as a reader.  I’ve read so many books that I have no way of ever knowing an exact number.  Thankfully, due to the magic of the internet, I found and joined GoodReads; a website similar to social media, that is only for books.  You can find friends and see what they are reading, “follow” authors, and review the books you read.  It will also keep track of what you have read; e.g. you can look up a title you know you have read in the past and mark it as “Read” and then compile a list from your memory.  The also recently debuted “reading challenges” where you set a goal for how many books you want to read in a calendar year (Jan 1st to Dec. 31st).  In 2018 I set a goal of 30 books, a low number in retrospect given that I finished the year with twice that.  For this year, I set my goal at 50 books, knowing I would surpass it as I did last year.  As of this writing I am reading my 95th book of 2019, and will easily surpass 100 by the time the end of December rolls around!

None of my books read in the past 2 years have been e-books.  I just have no desire for them.  I prefer having a physical item in my hand, with a cover to look at and a synopsis either on the back or inside the dust jacket.  Between hardcovers and paperbacks I much more prefer paperbacks as they are flexible and easier to fit into pants pockets!  Books also often have a smell to them, which a lot of people either love or hate.  Frankly, I love that smell.  That smell can’t really be described either, but if you say “that book smell” to someone, they know exactly what you are talking about.  E-books don’t have that smell!

Other reasons as to why I prefer physical books to e-items: they are universal in terms of use.  I don’t have to turn the brightness up on a book to read it.  I can read a book on a sunny day or a cloudy day.  I don’t have to plug my book in and wait for it to charge until I can open it and dig in.  I don’t have to download a book, or worry about transferring it from one device to another.  I don’t have to be connected to the internet or a cellular data plan to read a book.  I don’t have to store books in “the cloud” and then worry about them getting wiped out or becoming unavailable because Apple or Google or some entity suddenly changed user preferences and suddenly took away some of the items you “own.”  A physical book is there with you no matter what!

Lastly: books get me out of the house.  Unless I want to re-read something I already own, I have to go somewhere to get a book.  The library, a bookstore, a secondhand shop…it’s an adventure, and always fun!  I get out into the world and see places and interact with people.  If I stuck to only e-books I would never leave my couch, and that is not the life that I want!

Like previously mentioned, I’ve had a PPL card since age 3.  I don’t know what I would do without my library and physical books.  The same cannot be said for me and e-devices.

Which do you prefer?


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Plymouth Public Library