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Physical versus Digital Books

Physical vs Digital Books

Yes, it's been debated time and time again. However, it's only recently that we chimed in with our take, due to the current state we're living in and the evaporation of local libraries. While I feel there's both a plus and minus on each side of the equation, it must be discussed regardless of those who've shared their takes and points that differentiate one from the other. This isn't much as to why one is better than the other, but I will state why I prefer one than its comparison. Okay, let's go:

Physical Books: Pluses and Minuses

Pluses:
The obvious point with physical books is the feeling. You bought it, and it's in your hands ready to be read. Depending on the type of book, you can carry it around easily, especially during moments when you'd take the time to read a few snippets, an entire chapter, wiling away the time or waiting on something you're attending to. Another neat thing about physical books is no electricity required. Reports of a global-scale blackout has been the fear being spread around lately, as of this current writing, bracing ourselves for such phenomenon which, if it happened, will take weeks or months to fully restore the grid in order to manage everyone's daily usage. Even if you use a mini lamp to read your book in a dark environment, the physical book is available to read under the bright Sun without any hang-ups or worry about any electrical compromises. Oh, and if you're one of those people concerned about privacy, physical books have NO tracking software in any way. If you happen to read something either intense, or dry, you can skip, fast forward, or roll back to re-read a particular point in the book without being notified that you're not reading in the proper fashion. You can bookmark and highlight parts you hope to go back to time and again. Lastly, just the vision of yourself popping out a book and reading it makes you come off as a non-conformist—pursuing a hobby that separates you from others. There's this stigma we've all grown up with telling us that socializing helps recharge your batteries and gets you going. Given that, now, introversion is the "cool" thing, I find it fascinating how someone calls themselves as such but can't sit still when reading a book. This is where you come in, and prove that you're not another 'wallflower' talking the talk. No, you're a real bookworm, and when others see you with a book in your hands, you're not one to mess with. Believe me, people who have paraded around and told people they're introverts, often can't keep their eyes open when they read a book to prove it. I'm not saying reading books is an introverted thing, but it's an activity often associated with those who truly consider themselves as one. (Please be true to yourselves, and don't act fake telling people you're someone else.) Nevertheless, a physical book in your hands mean a story, or information if you're reading nonfiction, ready to be consumed. It's always proper to feed your stomach, so you should do the same with reading: Feed your brain from time to time. Remember: Knowledge is something that can never be taken away from you, no matter what drugs, injections are placed upon you, neither do any laws passed on to strip off such commodity. Once you know, you know.

Physical Books

Minuses:
One of the minuses I find with physical books is how much space it takes, depending on the size of the book. There are a herd of different height, width and thickness of a book that it occupies spaces very fast. If you're reading a series, yes, it looks awesome as a set when organized as such, but it becomes a hassle especially as you build your personal library (maybe not now, but when re-locating to another residence, for example). Another catch with physical books is when buying used. All due respect to those selling books online and being as descriptive as possible with its conditions, but some books I've purchased in the past have had so much highlighting and markings that it became unreadable to me. Some printings of the books are also either very faint, or are susceptible to damage (i.e. torn pages, spilled liquid). Mass market paperback books are subject to this subtle destruction. As much as I love reading a classic nonfiction title in mass market paperback, the moment I crack open the book wide enough for me to read the sentences left to right, I know the creases and bends I just made are irreversible. That doesn't mean that after reading it, I plan to return/resell it. As someone who did a moderate amount of video game collecting back in 2009, I like to keep my belongings in pristine condition. I enjoy what I read and what I own, but I don't want to make it look like I played football with it. Speaking of conditions, often times books don't open or bend properly due to humidity. There's nothing worse than reading, then having to turn the pages slower because of the weather (at risk of tearing the page). It's not a big deal to some, since I don't turn the pages that fast, but I'd like to keep a bit of a rhythm and flow when I'm reading something, even though it's that big of a minus. Nevertheless, it must be said. How can I also forget, one of the minuses being price. Okay, I get it, yes, save the trees. I'm not sure if it's a particular title, series or limited copies, but the prices of physical books varies from a few cents to an ungodly amount. Collector's books, such a first editions or autographed copies, remain high in price especially if the original version was unabridged. In general, physical books can get pricey, or add up in price, so fast it's scary. High prices on books are nothing new, but to my fellow bookworms, it's discomforting being reminded about it.

Now, we'll chime in on our take with digital books.

Digital Books: Pluses and Minuses

Pluses:
This article was published in 2021, and we're in the digital era already (will soon approach the virtual and artificially intelligent era). Nothing like getting with the times than reading a book on your cell phone, e-reader, and/or tablet. While, yes, you can technically read on a computer, using a third-party software to load the book(s), digital books are ready at your convenience. The look may seem like you're checking your phone or your tablet, but no one needs to know what it is you're checking or watching. Convenience is key, especially if you're someone on the go where carrying a physical book adds more weight to your hustle and bustle. If you're the type to take public transit and waiting until your next stop, the ease of use reading digitally is at your fingertips. Another plus is being able to read when it's dark. Many people love to read when their day has finished, and look to cozy up to a good book. No need for extra lighting as the bright LED on your mobile device is sufficient enough for you to read with the lights off. Also, depending on where you purchase your books, you're able to easily alphabetize and organize books to your liking. If there's a book you're finished reading, you can delete it off your list/device, or "return" it, and not worry about late fees or physical condition(s). For those who love highlighting will find digital books to be a treat, as you can choose any highlighting color you like without making a mess or marking the wrong snippet. Certain ebook software also come with how much percentage you have read in each chapter, also the entire book, and how much you've read thus far. Whenever you're done reading, the software automatically loads you to the page you left off without needing to bookmark (for the most part, as it depends what digital reader you're using). Without the worry of lugging around a big, bulky book makes this option a handy one, and if you're one of those who listens to music while reading, often times you can load your music player on your device while reading. It's all in one! Oh, and for those who are the environmentally friendly type, recommending going digital with books makes a lot of sense. As you know, trees have become crucial and essential, due to the rapid industrial growth around the world, killing off the natural resources that the planet needs to freshen our living environments, such as clean air. For those who write books will be able to find resources that are easy to partake when (self-)publishing. If you, or someone you know, has some reading or learning disability, ebook software [usually] comes with audio interpretation/dictation to help the reader consume through audio. Those who enjoy foreign books, or are fluent in another language, can fully translate an entire book without importing and paying high prices, especially if it's a title that's hard to find. Lastly, costs for digital books are as reasonable as you can get, as some are totally free!

Physical Books

Minuses:
One word: Ownership. Not many people realize this, but when you purchase a book digitally, you don't actually "own" it. I mentioned that some books can be "returned" or deleted, but when you're subscribed to a annual subscription program allowing you to download as much books as you want, you still can't obtain its PDF file, or whatever format you can snag the book in, for personal, private and offline reading. This was done in order to combat any piracy that might commence (the subject of piracy is albeit a tough topic to debate on). Depending on where you purchased your digital book(s), some do provide the actual digital book file available for offline reading. Nevertheless, this subscription-based model runs the same way with your streaming movies, TV shows and music: It's available to watch, as some services allow downloading and watching your content offline, but you don't "own" the shows you stream. (YouTube is making this tougher with content being uploading on their website, even if it's posted by the network/production company themselves, to download the videos.) This is perhaps why the physical media community continues to grow steadily but at a fast rate: The undivided embrace of full ownership and private enjoyment. I believe the phrase "you will own nothing and be happy" has begun to leak through lately, causing ripples around the future Fate of our personal belongings to even our own human body. If we lived in a world, where you were born and raised, only to be told you don't own your own body, imagine the rupture one's autonomy undergoes knowing that there isn't much to do, and the decisions we make in pursuance of our own self-interests may be the punishment we never want to experience, even if it's abided by the law(s). Same goes with books: If the book you just read was so good, but had no option for 100% offline download, nor a physical copy, how will you cater to such need? Even if it combats piracy, many other countries have lackluster laws when sharing copies online, and that includes illegal downloading/torrenting of such media. One of the questions I'd like to ask, and politely discuss, is how effective this method has been in reducing piracy? Sounds like a long discussion, but it must be brought up, because content is still being leaked and shared online despite publishers and authors kindly asking readers not to resort to pirating.

Continuing with the minuses is light and radiation emitted from mobile devices—a big concern for those who have children. You can only sit and stare at a screen for so long, and even if you're enjoying what you're reading, it's best to step away and give your eyes a break. This is discouraging when you're fully immersed in a book you can't put down. Another catch with digital books is that it requires electricity just to start reading. Yes I know, e-readers and tablets have gotten faster and faster with load times, but it's still inconvenient to deal with when you're all ready to dive in and read. In addition to that, battery life is also a concern. If you're on a plane, and your flight takes more than, say, a full-time shift—eight hours—you've got a lot of reading to do, but also taking note how much your device is able to hold. Of course, you can read with your device plugged in, but why bother? Another catch with digital books is certain titles don't render properly. Whether it's a book with lots of illustrations, foreign phrases/languages, or mathematical formulas, e-reading software don't showcase these properly. This is enough to turn the reader off, as many folks have complained about such thing on Amazon. Sure, the software continues to get better and better, but for how long? How many [firmware] updates will it take in order just to finally enjoy the book? Do the firmware updates apply to those still using older devices? There's a lot riding on digital books as errors pop up all the time.

Let's summarize our points overall:

Physical Books

Pluses

  1. Ready to read at any time.
  2. You bought it, you own it.
  3. No recharging and no electricity required.
  4. Able to fully skip forward or backward at the reader's pace.
  5. No tracking devices or software tallying your reading progress.
  6. Lots of rare, classic books available (some titles never released a digital version).

Minuses

  1. Takes up space very quickly.
  2. Costs continue to go up, albeit a book's collector status or edition.
  3. Some used physical books are in terrible condition, rendering the book either unreadable or unacceptable for reselling.
  4. Like food, millions of physical books go unread and get thrown out.

Digital Books

Pluses

  1. Purchase and you're ready to read without in-person pickup or shipping times.
  2. Costs of digital books are very much pocket change (some are free!).
  3. Can build a huge collection without taking up too much space.
  4. Digital books can be "returned" or easily deleted off your device with no worries of fees, condition or environmental waste.
  5. Most e-readers can be used and read in absolute darkness.

Minuses

  1. Despite being fully purchased, readers don't fully own the book (depending on the website).
  2. Many physical books, including older/classic titles, are still unavailable digitally.
  3. Requires electricity and occasional recharging of device just to read.
  4. Its high-end software still makes digital books susceptible to piracy, making it available for free on foreign websites whose countries have weaker policies with online media.
  5. Even though companies swear to respect customer/reader privacy, users are being tracked regardless.
  6. Too much screen-staring on your mobile device can cause eye strain, requiring breaks every now and then.
  7. Certain books, along with specific e-readers, don't render foreign snippets, illustrations and/or mathematical formulas very well.

This is the best comparison we have come up with. If I had to choose between the two, despite our full honest breakdown for each, I'd still stick with books in physical form. While we do own an Amazon Kindle, I can find the place for reading digitally, along with reading certain books I don't mind going through without ailing for a physical copy of it. Other than that, this isn't to say one is better than the other, but personally, I much prefer physical copies. There are those who are fully adapted to digital reading, and that's okay! I'm all for saving and planting trees, so having to print books in recyclable materials are key. Yeah, I'm a walking contradiction, but given that I read mostly nonfiction, I'd like my information to be ready for me to access. Now, yes, there's a reason websites aren't printed on paper to get people to read and enjoy in person, but like I said, it's a personal preference. I do read some titles digitally with our Kindle, but since I love digging through older books and some classic literature, it looks nice having a physical copy of it and the presence of having to access the book with its built-in bookmark makes it a treat.

Some folks prefer digital, while some like physical books. No matter what, you're doing some reading, and that's what we want people to do more of. It flexes your imaginative muscles, and able to absorb and learn knowledge that you, otherwise, may not ever find or get from school, college, TV news, movies, other people, nor even online (i.e. social media). As said before, once you know, you know. Keep reading!

Which points would you add in addition to what we've discussed so far? How long until digital books are the norm? Let's hear from you in the comments below!


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