I don’t feel comfortable without a book nearby (a print book, that is). And the older I get, the more books I read at the same time; I’m usually in the midst of two or three. This is no boast, because I’ve religiously avoided reading serious literature ever since the course that required me to read Nausea and The Death of Ivan Illyich in the same week. Now I read mostly mysteries, which I could argue are, in fact, serious literature, but I don’t because then I wouldn’t want to read them anymore. I get a lot of paperbacks from Amazon, especially since I recently discovered how cheaply I can get used paperbacks there (I also get lots of used paperbacks from the Harvard Bookstore in the interest of supporting brick and mortar bookstores).
Then one of my favorite mystery writers released a novella only in a Kindle version available through Amazon. I broke down, downloaded the Kindle app to my laptop, bought the novella, and read it online. For me, it was an empty experience. I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the print books by this author. The words just kind of lay there on the screen, and I found the glare annoying (I experience this constantly in my work, but it felt worse when I was reading for fun). I haven’t bought any more ebooks. I have been trying to read From Manassas to Appomattox: Memoirs of the Civil War in America at the Internet Archive, but it’s been slow going in the online format.
I think I’m going to be in big trouble if print publishing ever goes the way of the dodo… but will it? I wonder. As much as I love electronic library resources (and I do! I really do! I much prefer doing research online to in print!), I don’t love ebooks for pleasure reading, and I wonder just how much others actually read ebooks and enjoy them. And of course that led to my sending out a one-question survey. The survey question was this:
For your pleasure reading:
- ___ Kindle (Nook, iPad, iPhone, other e-reader) OR
- ___ print?
That was it. I sent the “survey” to about 60 colleagues at home and around the country. They included academic, public, school, and special librarians, archivists, administrators, and digital specialists. Some were seasoned librarians, some were newbies (or relative newbies), some were baby boomers, some were digital natives, Gen X, Gen Y, Millennials… you get the idea. I got a terrific response, and most people said they’d be very interested in hearing the results. So here they are:
- Those who prefer an e-reader for pleasure reading: 8
- Those who prefer print for pleasure reading: 31
- Those who indulge in both: 19
As with others of my brief surveys, some of the comments that accompanied the survey responses provided extra context, so here are a few of those (completely anonymized, as always):
“I don’t really like pleasure reading from my Kindle. I prefer when I am reading at home to read a [print] book. The navigation on my Kindle is not good. I hate not being able to flip back to re-read an important passage. When I go back to read in a [print] book, I can remember exactly where the paragraph was on the page. I can’t do that with my Kindle. I also love cracking open a new book and enjoying its smell, the feel of high quality paper, and the art work of the dust jacket.”
“I do read print but I like to read in bed so I can read on my iPad with the Kindle app without having the lights on—and the other thing I like about reading on the iPad is that I can look at Google maps to see the locations and things referred to in my story.”
“Print, except when traveling, then Kindle.”
“I stick to print but only because I get migraines and the glare/reflection from ereaders (I actually do own one, but still prefer print) gets to me after long periods of reading.”
“For pleasure reading electronic is fine, for deeper reading I prefer print. Can’t really answer because I feel they serve different purposes.”
“Kindle. I read more books, more regularly [with it] than I ever have.”
“iPad, with a very occasional print book (so occasional that I find myself tapping the page of the print book to turn it…).”
“What the heck are those things you mention in the first line? Print—hands down.”
“Kindle on train. Print at home.”
“Both! The defining factor is if I want to share the book, if I’m reading on a beach, or traveling for more than a few weeks.”
“I use both. I like my iPhone when I travel (using Kindle) but a [print] book in bed unless my husband complains about the light when I read in bed and then I will switch to my phone.”
“Kindle for me! (This from a special collections librarian – it’s true, though).”
“Both. When traveling I always take my Kindle because of weight/space constraints and usually a print book (or two). Right now I’m reading print, but I also read electronically. I’m not that picky.”
“It’s funny because five minutes ago I was talking to a colleague about how I tend to read magazines in print. The New Yorker, Atlantic, law library journals. Most other pleasure reading is online, including trashy romance novels!”
One respondent asked if my survey was related to the recent Washington Post article, “Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right.” It wasn’t, but I certainly found the article interesting, considering the results of my wholly unscientific survey. The thing is, I do know who answered what, and I was struck by the fact that preferences definitely did not run along age lines. There were plenty of “young folks” who preferred print, just as there were plenty of “seasoned folks” who preferred electronic or used both. For some, form followed function/environment; for others, one format or the other was simply preferred. I do know what my preference is, but I also respect the differing preferences my colleagues reported. May we all be able to do our pleasure reading—in whatever format we prefer—for a very long time.
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