I always find myself going back to certain authors. It’s like visiting an old friend who you haven’t seen in a long time. Currently, I am revisiting Tolkien, and I’ve been going back and forth between The Lord of the Rings and some of his posthumously published works, Unfinished Tales.
What does this have to do with the argument between print and digital?
Well, for me, everything. I have spent years collecting many of the books on my shelves, and just this past year I have moved twice. This was a fun task the first time because I was ready to do it, but the second time was arduous and stressful because I was being forced to move, and also because I remembered how long it took me to move my entire library of books and organize them in my new living space.
So, the other night, after everything book-wise in my home has been situated – I sat down with a big paperback copy of Unfinished Tales (which is a highly recommended read if you love Tolkien like I do). However, there was something wrong. In all the Christopher Tolkien books, there is a lot of attention paid to the typesetting. Basically the text is so long that it is crammed into tiny blocks, which is not ideal for leisure reading after a long day of staring at a computer monitor. My eyes just couldn’t focus, and my brain couldn’t focus on what I was reading.
Then, a thought occurred to me. I had my Kindle Paperwhite sitting on my desk and I picked it up, prepared to do something that I’ve done once or twice before, and that was to find the book I wanted to read on the Kindle Store.
Sure enough, there it was. I downloaded the sample just to test it out, to see if it would be easier reading on my tablet (which had a nice non-glare screen and also a handy backlight that I love).
It seemed to be a match made in heaven. I could adjust the size of the text, I could hold it comfortably in my hands, and I actually became absorbed in hearing Christopher Tolkien’s voice as well as his father’s as I read.
There has been a lot of argument between readers, publishers, and writers about whether reading a digital book is as good as reading a paper book. Do you remember things as well with digital? In the case of remembering digital, I will say that I absolutely remembered what I read on a tablet. In fact, nearly all the stories that I read during the day are stored in my memory perfectly, and those are all read on a screen!
After this experiment, I thought about converting some of my library into a digital one. I’m still torn between keeping some books (there are many that I won’t throw out or sell because I love them too much) but, do I really need the old paperbacks of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series? They’re all used and falling apart. I honestly can’t say that I would absorb what I was reading if I had to constantly hold the loose pages in place all the time. Yes, he’s so loved that his books are basically falling apart. I could definitely see converting those to digital in the future. Perhaps I’ll ask for that for Christmas.
My main focus when reading a book is the content. Covers are nice, but it’s the words on the page that are the entire point of the book. It’s information or a story that should be worried about, not the format in which they are absorbed. I won’t be getting rid of my Tolkien, Rowling, or King book collections any time soon, but the convenience of a digital library is sometimes too good to ignore.