So many options present themselves when one decides to “read” a book in this day and age. After hearing nothing from the private bookstores I contacted asking about the variety of “reading” methods (I thought they’d like some free advertising; apparently, I was mistaken) I turned to friends and family and asked, “How do we read?”
My cousin Ted almost immediately rephrased the question in reference to audiobooks and asked, “If you are listening, are you reading?” He’s always been a troublemaker, this cousin of mine. His name is Ted Williams and when I was growing up in Western Massachusetts, I would tell people my cousin was Ted Williams, and he was a pretty good ballplayer. Hey, what did I know? People thought I was crazy. It wasn’t my fault; my dad was a Yankee fan.
Sorry, I digress.
Thus, how do we ingest the contents of what we still call a book whether it’s paper, electronic, or some type of audio? For many people, the real book, paper with binding and printed words remains the best option, if not the only option. My friend Clare stated straightforwardly, “Books.” Twins Peter and Paul have different opinions. Paul said, “I only read hard copies. So, I haven’t really given other methods a chance. I did listen to an eBook once on a long drive and enjoyed it. … It may take longer [to read] actually because I sometimes read things over. Or get images in my mind that take me on a thought tangent. That would not happen so much with audiobooks. Peter loves his Kindle. But he reads much faster than I and more often.” Peter gave his two cents worth, explaining, “I listened to an audiobook once, but not an eBook.”
My friends Carol and Mary want a real book in their hands, and both Vicki and Jeff chimed in with “Me too!” Another Paul related, “I love to hold a real book in my hands. That said, I’ve done only limited reading on a Kindle.” My friend Martin from Scotland agrees. “I’m a real paper and print person. Love just sitting down and picking up a book and turning the pages.” My former coworker Terri wants to feel the book. “I prefer real books. I find it easier if I want to compare two pages to just hold the pages in between and quickly glance back and forth. Plus, my eyes just start to glaze over, and every page looks exactly like the last one. I also just feel like I can focus on the content better if it is printed.”
Sarah, daughter of a bookstore owner from when she was a child, simply states, “Real book,” and of course, that makes total sense. Gerry and Kathy also prefer real books along with my friend from high school, Sue, who plainly stated her preference as, “Real books and page turning.” Sandra only wants real books in her hands. “I read two to three books a week,” she related. “Best stressbuster around.”
Eileen did try audiobooks and has listened to a few of them, but confesses, “I think I’ve only ever listened to five or fewer audiobooks in my entire life. My commute to work is 6 minutes, but if it were lengthier, I’m sure I’d listen to eBooks. I prefer paperback books, especially when I’m reading for enjoyment. I even read aloud my favorite books to my girlfriend while she’s either cooking or driving.” Sylvia just likes books. “I like to underline and write notes in the margins. I often re-read the underlined or highlighted section and then I remember and relive the story. A book also reminds me of what was happening in my life when I read it the first time.”
And then there’s a whole group who prefer the alternatives.
Loretta shares, “I love holding a book in my hand, but I’d read a lot less if I didn’t have my Kindle. So many books on my phone that I can carry anywhere in the world with me!” Gail explains, “I ‘read’ via Kindle on my iPad because I can adjust the font size for my old eyes, and when I carry the device, it is always the same size and weight. My sleeping is bad so at night I ‘read’ audiobooks because the light from my iPad would keep my husband awake. Neither of these formats clutters up my space and thankfully ALL reading forms are available for free from the public library.” I’ve known Carrie since she was knee-high to a grasshopper, and she’s always been quite the reader. “I love all the choices. I prefer a real book, but to me, the real beauty of an electronic book is that you can get whatever book you want in an instant at your fingertips. Also, I’m a big dictionary user so to be able to just put my finger on a word I want to look up and have a definition of etymology just appear without me having even to reach for something else is magical witchcraft that makes me marvel at the 21st century.”
Several other high school friends, Sharon, Jean, and Shirley, like the compactness and versatility of the print. Sharon says, “I use my Kindle. I love to read and storing 500 books on a Kindle certainly is much neater. I travel a lot so taking 20 new books is less cumbersome. And I can adjust font size, brightness, and background. It’s perfect for me.” “I pretty much read only on the Kindle now,” Jean explains. “Actually, on my phone. That way I always have my book available whenever I have a minute, especially when traveling. I used to listen to audiobooks in my car, but I don’t drive much anymore and if I try to listen to them in the house, I would fall asleep! LOL!” Shirley is a real Kindle fan. “I read almost exclusively on my Kindle. My eyesight is not good, and I can enlarge the print as much as I need to. The print in books is too small for me and the book too heavy to hold. I have never enjoyed being read to, so I do not use audiobooks. I can read on my Kindle or use the Kindle Cloud on both my phone and computer.”
Some people read on a computer or other device but feel the experience of the book of paper and ink is missing. Meredith explains, “I read a ton online now, but my ‘comfort food’ is a book of paper and binding.” Judy finds it difficult to listen to one voice reading for male and female on audiobooks. “I prefer to read novels myself
because I develop voices in my mind for the characters and find it difficult to imagine male voices as females or vice versa!”
Another Judy applauds our choices. “I love that we have so many options AND that libraries offer those options. Before I retired, I used to listen to recorded books on my way home to unwind. Never do it anymore. I go back and forth between Kindle on my computer and ‘real’ books (print on paper). There are advantages to each form. Aren’t we lucky?!” Diane enjoyed audiobooks for a long drive. “Since retiring, I don’t listen to audiobooks anymore (on a long commute). I read actual books, random articles online and some podcasts.”
Are we reading if we are listening? Does the advantage of hundreds of books on a Kindle or computer make up for the actual feel of a page? I think we’re lucky to have so many choices, but personally, I’ll choose a real book whenever possible.
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