Friday, November 7, 2014

Digitizing My Reading

If you look at the formats in which I've read books over time, you'll notice some drastic changes...

("Null" indicates books I read before I started recording my reading in 2006.)

There are actual three major shifts in my reading formats, which could be labeled "Jessica starts getting her books from the library" (more hardcover), "Jessica discovers OverDrive at her local library" (more audiobooks), and "Jessica buys a Kindle" (more ebooks). (There's a little blip of couple of ebooks I read in 2010 on my iPod Touch using the iBooks app, but that was not an ideal format.)

This graph shows what percentage of books I read each year were in each of these formats. From this, you might be tempted to conclude that, in recent years, I've largely replaced hard copy books with digital books. But in reality, I've only converted some of my hard copy reading to digital. It's more accurate to say that having access to digital formats has caused my total reading to skyrocket:

I seek out books first on OverDrive now because it's quick and easy to download to my Kindle, and less quick but still easy to download audiobooks to iTunes (and WAY faster than when I used to import audio CDs in order to load them on my iPod). Books get automatically returned when they expire. I still make trips to the library when books aren't available digitally or I don't want to read them in that format, though I try to consolidate my trips so that when I drop off a book that's due or pick up one on hold, I pick up another one that's only available in hard copy.

I bought a Kindle right before we moved cross-country, and I was a reluctant ebook user at first, particularly when I discovered that I couldn't lend out the vast majority of books on Kindle. Once I realized that our new library had OverDrive, though, and it offered books in Kindle format, I started borrowing like a fiend and never looked back.

I'll be the first to admit that not all books are ideally read in a digital format. My e-reader is a black-and-white Kindle Touch, so anything that has pictures goes on my hard-copy-only list. I preview narrators before downloading an audiobook, and I'll sometimes stop and return it if I end up not liking the narration.

But I've found that many, many books are just as easily enjoyed digitally as in hard copy, and some even more so. I tend to appreciate classic literature much more when it's read aloud to me (Frankenstein was a recent example of this). And I love the Kindle feature that lets me touch and hold a word to get a definition; I'm way too lazy most of the time to look up a word I don't know in a hard copy book. (Sometimes I catch myself wanting to press down on the word on the paper!) It was also way easier to tackle War and Peace and Roots as audiobooks than it was to tackle A Suitable Boy in paperback.

I don't think that digital reading will ever fully replace my hard-copy reading, but I'm definitely not in the "but that book smell! but I like to hold it in my hand!" camp anymore.

How do you feel about digital books, whether ebooks and audiobooks? Have you changed the format you read most often over time?

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