Electronic vs Audio vs Conventional Books

21st Century Question

What format do you prefer? Is the e-book more convenient or more enticing to you? Have audio versions become your format of choice? Or will the heft, texture, and feel of printed pages have to be pried from your cold dead fingers?

Is there even a write or wrong answer? How many out there fall somewhere in the middle and are just afraid to admit it?

According to one source of recent figures, the last three quarters of 2017 found $1.3 billion in e-book sales, $490 million in audiobook sales, and $3.1 billion in conventional (hardback/paperback) sales.

It is worth noting that this same source pointed out that even though the dollar amount of conventional book sales was greater than e-book sales, the number of e-books sold actually exceeded conventional book sales substantially. This coincides with the purchase price of conventional offerings typically exceeding that of the electronic counterparts.

Electronic Books — E-Books

There can be no denying that e-books offer some conveniences. The cost factor was just referenced. Typically, e-book editions are significantly cheaper than the print version. Of course, this is explained by the additional cost involved with printing a physical copy as opposed to a digital version.

Physical size is certainly a factor. A library of e-books can be contained on an e-reading device, laptop hard drive, or smartphone. However, a library of the equivalent number of physical copies of printed books may fill a room or even multiple rooms of a house with wall-to-wall shelving accommodations.

Portability. While I know many never leave home without a physical book in their possession, even the diehard print fanatic cannot argue that an e-book on your smartphone is more convenient to carry than a physical copy (and yes, I acknowledge that those same people will also argue that they prefer to read the physical copy, but this point is simply about portability).

There are countless other miscellaneous factors as well. As much as I hate to admit it, the years I have spent walking the face of this planet are finally catching up with me. While three decades ago, I could read a printed paperback comfortably under the dim light of a bedroom at night, those days are behind me. To read that same paperback at night, I now have to have nearly every light in the room on. To contrast, I can comfortably read an e-book on a backlit display without disturbing the other occupants of the room with any additional and obtrusive light.

Audio, the Voice of Convenience?

I will admit, I have no personal experience with audiobooks. I have talked to several who swear by them. These individuals prefer the auditory offering because of their own busy lifestyles. With audiobooks, they can enjoy a good narrative during their commute to work or any other lengthy travel time by slipping a CD or more likely plugging their smartphone into their car stereo.

I confess this option sounds very attractive on paper. In reality, not-so-much. First, in my application, most of my lengthy drives find me also sharing the auto with my family. Needless to say, this is not a conducive environment for enjoying a story when there are usually several arguments going on at the same time between kids and my wife enjoys discussing world and family problems while confined to the recesses of the family car. Second, when I read, I like to get truly lost in a story. I do not believe that I can be an effective and safe driver if I am lost within a story. The concept haunts me as the potential for disaster.

Diehard Old School–Conventional Print

I alluded earlier to my aging eyes and the convenience of an e-book for night-time reading. Don’t let that comment fool you. A room full of bookcases lined with hardback and paperback offerings, an old mom-and-pop bookstore, even stacks and stacks of old books takes me to a whole new plane. You will never find an argument from me about the distinction of holding and feeling the physical weight of a book (especially a hardback copy), the smell of the pages, the texture of the cover–not the dustjacket, the actual cover.

The experience of physically interacting with a print copy cannot be equaled. At least not in my opinion, nor in the opinions of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of other individuals.  I overheard one of my children a few days ago comment that they only read real print books. I was a very proud father that day and knew that I had raised my children right. No offense meant to you e-book or audiobook lovers out there. Print books are just how we prefer to roll in our own household.

Reading is a multi-level, multi-dimensional experience. Yet, having said that, the format pales in importance to the act of reading itself. Regardless of which format you prefer, just read. Honestly, that is why none of these formats is wrong. Even though you will find those who lie steadfast in each individual camp. At the end of the day, the important thing is that you read. Find which format allows you to comfortably read and stick with it. If you are reading, you can’t go wrong.

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