Saturday, February 26, 2011

Paper vs Screen (or Real Books vs E-books)

One needs only look at my collection of books to know that I am a bit of a bibliophile. I'm not just someone who enjoys reading, but I really love the books themselves. I tend to collect anything that I read, and only begrudgingly part with a book, and then only if it was really one I didn't enjoy, I just really need the shelf space to accommodate, you guessed it, more books. So, it shouldn't be any real surprise that one of the first things I downloaded when I got my Motorola Droid over a year ago was an app called Aldiko Book Reader. I've also downloaded quite a few E-books as well, but up until now, haven't read a single one. Recently, while between books (meaning I had just finished one and was deciding what novel to read next), I starting browsing through the list of items I had downloaded to my Droid. I ended up reading the poem “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. It was the first time I had actually used the e-book reader to read more than a page or two of anything.

Reading that classic poem got me to wondering about if I'd actually enjoy reading a full length book on such a small screen.* So, to accommodate an experiment I decided to download an e-book for which I also own an actual copy of the book. So, when I'm at home, I read from the hard copy, but having the same book in electronic format on my Droid allows me to be able to pick up reading a few pages when I'm out and about even if I've forgotten to take my book with me. So far, I have to admit, reading a book on my phone isn't as bad I thought it would be. The tricky part, so far, with reading a book via two media formats is keeping the bookmarks synchronized. Whenever I read the book, I have make sure I move my bookmark in the e-book and vice versa or I end up reading the same pages/chapters twice.

Now that I've established that I'm perfectly content with reading a book on my smallish phone screen, I now have to decide if that will become the future of how I read books. As I mentioned before, I love books – the way they feel, the way they smell. I can easily spend quite a bit of time (not to mention money) at a bookstore. However, Aldiko has access to quite a large library of free, public domain books as well as more current books, usually for a bit cheaper than buying the hard copy. Then there's also the ability to get e-books via bit torrents.

There are also other concerns to take into account when collecting books. They take up a lot of space, and they can also be quite heavy when packed in boxes (something I have to consider since I'm still have most of my collection in storage in North Carolina and am currently establishing residency in Atlanta, GA). My old college buddy Sam had some interesting insights on this very subject some time ago. Rather than re-listing them all here, I'll suggest you read his blog entries “Digital Dilemma” and “Kobo Impressions”. The only other comment I'll make is that, while Sam bought a dedicated e-book reader, I rather like the fact that my smartphone has the ability to function as an e-book reader using the Aldiko app (or others) as well as access the internet. In other words, I only have to carry one mobile device, where someone with just an e-book reader would need to carry at least two (the reader plus their cellphone).

~ JC

PS. I should be noted that I have only cataloged physical books using LibraryThing. I've yet to catalog my e-books/PDFs save for a few.

* The Motorola Droid has a 3.7” screen
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