These past weeks, JM and I have been on the road, overnighting in as many as three different places in a span of four days. We prepared for this happy hustle, and we anticipated there could be losses because of scurrying.
That first night in our hotel room, searching through suitcases for toothpaste and jammies, JM looked bleak. “I can’t believe I left my books and magazines at home,” he admitted when I asked what was wrong.
For my sweet historian, editor, and avid reader, the oversight was tantamount to disaster.
It was late, and we were too tired to find bookstores in unfamiliar territory. Instead, I popped open my tablet, pulled up the Library Anywhere app, and connected to my library 500 miles away in Carolina. Within five minutes, I downloaded an Inspector Gamache mystery by Louise Penny I knew JM would enjoy.
After a 60-second tut on tablet controls, he spent the next few evenings powering through the tale and asking for another download before our trip ended. JM, who saved “Auto Week” magazine as far back as the 1980s and has two rooms of books stacked on every corner and shelf, entered the digi-age at last…and he loved it.
As we crossed the eastern US on our road trip, listening to audio books downloaded on my smart phone and piped through car speakers, I considered the many reading options available today and over debate which is best.
According to a recent Pew Research study, print is the dominant way Americans read books:
More than two-thirds (69%) of people said they had read at least one printed book in the past year, versus 28% who said they’d read an e-book and 14% who said they had listened to an audiobook.
I adore the convenience of pulling up a digital book and seeing it appear on my tablet seconds later, without a run to the library or bookstore. Easy-peasy. Saves on gas and time.
I’m not a person who likes being still, so it’s tough to sit down to read for pleasure, (though I read online for work all the time). My mind races in a million directions, and I always think of something else I need to do. However, with ear buds dangling and an mp3 player tucked in a pocket, an audio book keeps me company when I exercise, tackle chores, and finish yard work. It even motivates during my morning routine to make teeth brushing and flossing less onerous. (My dentist loves the results!)
3. Alternative Learning
As a writing coach for college students with vision impairments and learning disabilities, I saw how audio books were lifesavers when printed words eluded these young people. Screen readers, another digital-reading cousin, even pull up text, highlight it, and read aloud with a voice quality and pace that users determine.
4. Sleep Aid
Full disclosure: I’m proud to be a librocubicularist. I hope we can still be friends.
Reading in bed at night helps me fall asleep; however, keeping a light on to illuminate my book keeps others awake. Tah-da! E-reader to the rescue. Using backlighting and control adjustments on my tablet, I snap off the lamp and read into the night without disturbing anyone.
Digital books allow print and layout customization that suit me to a T. I select a two-column spread on sepia background, with mid-sized font and gentle line spacing. My tablet is super light and easy to prop up. I even slip it into my briefcase or knitting bag to carry without adding serious weight.
6. Space Saving
Unlike those whose rooms are blanketed with books and piled along the back stairs (and you know who you are!), my books sit on a lovely, floating cloud in cyberspace. I imagine them there, smiling down on me, waiting for me to summon them in my reading queue. They remain in pristine condition, never crumpled or stained. Plus, there’s no need to dust them. Ever.
7. Kid Magnets
Has a toddler ever grabbed your tablet and started pushing buttons? They finding apps you didn’t know existed! Digital books and reading apps are made for those little fingers.
I marvel at the way my niecelettes navigate a reading app intuitively on their own. Plus, it’s pure delight to sit down together to scroll through pages and laugh at sound effects and pop-ups.
If you price an e-book against its print counterpart, you already know which is more affordable.
So, there you have my preferences. Whatever way we prefer, the important point is to get people reading, no matter which platform they use.
The Pew Research organization found that the typical American read five books in 2013. Let’s pump up that number for adults and get kids hooked on books, too.
Print. Digital. Audio. Whatever it takes. It’s time to get reading!
What's YOUR preference? Let’s have fun with two unscientific polls:
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What do you think about digital books?
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