Monday musings: Paper or electronic books?

Share

The bus is a great place to observe people, to watch how they spend their time when they’re waiting to get to where they want or need to go. While many just stare at nothing, or try to sleep, most attempt to fill their time.

Most of those who are doing something besides sitting on the bus are using an electronic device. There are people of all ages using their smart phones to talk, check email, text or most often play a game. Others read Kindles, Kobos or iPads. In the mornings, I often see students finishing an assignment on their laptop computers. It’s rare to see someone reading a newspaper, which was the most common pastime when I began my career.

Occasionally as I ride into and home from the city, I see someone reading a book. An honest-to-god paperback or hardcover.

In the environment where we focus on, chat about, read and write e-books, it’s sometimes surprising to remember that people still buy, read and share paper books.

There’s a lady I meet and chat with occasionally, when we’re on the bus together. When I showed her a sample of the paperback edition of my latest book, Walking Out of War, she said “I love a real paperback book. It’s something you can touch, you can hold.”

I had to agree with her. E-books are the sensible choice for commuters: a Kindle or a Kobo is lighter than a big paperback, and the batteries last for days. You can have any number of books on them and they never get heavier. The type never fades and if it’s too small for my aging eyes, I can make it bigger.

But there is something about the tactile experience of holding a book that triggers the emotions in a way an e-book just cannot. As a writer, I love having a print book that I wrote. And I really regret that my contract with Amazon does not allow me to produce print editions of my Kindle World books.

Print has its advantages over e-books. You don’t need to charge up a book to read it. You don’t have to put your paperback away when your plane it taking off or landing. (What is that really about, anyway?)

As a writer, another advantage I find that print has over e-books is that I have greater control over the visual presentation. That means I can choose the type fonts I want, the page layout and so much more. With e-books, you’re limited to the fonts and layouts the publishing platform, whether Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble or whatever, have.

However, it is more challenging and expensive to produce a physical, paper book. Amazon’s CreateSpace and Ingram’s Lightning Source provide web platforms that make it easier, but if you want a professional-looking product, you need to know what you’re doing.

In my case, it helps that I’ve worked in the printing and publishing world for most of my career. I’ve learned about some of the little things that make a big difference between professional and amateurish. And there are plenty of books available that obviously have been produced by people who may be talented writers, but don’t know squat about publishing.

I believe that professional appearance makes a difference to the reader. Many of the little details, like how big to make the margin on a 5 x 8 page, where the page numbers (folios, in publishing language) go, which way quotation marks should slant, how to set up facing pages, how to select typefaces—all evolved because they enhance the reading experience. They make it easier to read the text, to navigate and to follow the story.

While readers may not appreciate every nuance, at least subconsciously they’re affected by them. The difference between a professionally produce page and one done by an amateur is as obvious as the difference between a professional musician and the tone-deaf kid next door.

Creative Commons

These are all from the writer’s perspective, though. I’d like to hear from readers. I know that many people who follow this blog read e-books—some of BSR’s members publish only in electronic format. But which do you like better, electronic or paper? Why? Which do you prefer to take the beach, or read in bed? What do you take when you commute?

Leave your answers in the Comments.

Share
About Scott Bury

Comments

  1. PAPER ONLY! Call me old-fashioned, but I haven’t been able to adopt e-books yet. I’m sure I’m missing some great reads that have only been released electronically, but I need a real book in my hands. The feel, the smell, the sound of the pages turning. The worry about creasing the spine on a paperback. I refuse to go digital when it comes to my reading!

  2. I read both formats, and publish in both formats. One thing I like about ebooks is the number I can take with me when I travel – all of them. I read on an iPad, and like that I can bookmark spots and write notes without messing up the book.

Speak Your Mind

*