Michael on Choosing Between eBooks and Paper Books

The following is a guest post from Associate Editor Michael Sivilli sharing observations about reading eBooks and paper books, as well as his own choices.

At the time of this writing, the reading of print books vs. eBooks on public transportation and their facilities (i.e., trains, buses, planes, terminals, and airports) seems to be 50/50. Besides doing the usual comparison observations (i.e., looking at how many people are reading print books and how many are reading ebooks), I want to go a step further. When I recently noticed a print book in my chiropractor’s briefcase, I said, “Wow, a printed book. Do you have a Kindle or a Nook?” His reply was, “I only read real books.” When I asked a young woman waiting for a bus and reading from an eReader at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan her opinion of the eReader, she told me that she loved it. But I digress.

The step further that I want to take might actually be a step back. It’s just about basic printed material vs. electronic “gadgets” (for lack of a better term). Not to get egotistical, but I’m actually going to use myself as the victim — oh, excuse me, “example” here.

It started when I finally got a smartphone about two years ago, and explored the world of “apps.” What is offered is fascinating. Of course some are more interesting and complicated than others. Some are too much; others are just there for advertising purposes. I could name a few examples here, but to prevent lawsuits, I’ll pass.

One of the first things I noticed was that the daily newspaper that I read on the bus every morning during my commute was offered as a free app. Now that’s something in itself that I can’t figure out because I was spending $1 every morning on the newspaper, and now I was getting it for free on my smartphone. Initially, I thought that maybe the fact that one is now reading it on a small screen was the reason for the discount, but then I remembered that it can also be read on a larger device. And that actually brings me to my point. My Managing Editor every so often reminds me that print will never die. I recently saw an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Captain Picard was actually holding a rather large book that he had been reading before being interrupted by a visitor. And you’d have to think that if print books were on their way to becoming extinct or discontinued, by that far into the future, Captain Picard would definitely be reading off an electronic device only.

Personally, I started and continue reading three American and one Italian newspaper on my smartphone every morning free of charge. But I do see many people still reading physical, paper newspapers. Even religion has gotten into the apps scene. The Catholic Church provides a few, one of which I introduced to an older woman at the start of a Mass, when I noticed that she was reading from her smartphone. She was fascinated by the app I told her about, and downloaded it immediately. Personally, I tried using the app, but I thought that people would think I was texting during the service. So after a Mass, I approached the priest, and asked him for his opinion. He not only smiled, but named the app before I even mentioned it, and then proceeded to tell me how wonderful it is.

My Managing Editor is correct: Print will never die. The option to use electronic devices is now and will be for the foreseeable future just that: an option. A friend of mine who has a Kindle Fire loves the fact that she can not only read books on it, but surf the Internet, too — and pretty much at the same time! However, remember the basic reason for the purchase of that particular device or any that performs the same types of functions: to read.

A few years ago, I finally purchased the basic Kindle, and admittedly hesitated to use it at first for fear that I would like it so much, I would stop reading print books (which were my basic love for entering the business of book publishing in the first place). So I decided to actually read an upcoming AMACOM book on the Kindle as an experiment. I had the electronic file converted to eBook form, and was on my way. I do like it. But I also still like reading print books. By the way, since I started reading the book on the Kindle, I have downloaded others for future reading. But I also have many printed books waiting, too.

It just ultimately all depends on one’s preferences, and then one’s decision. Either way, we still need to read (however you want to do it)!

Thank you, Michael!

Michael Sivilli has been an Associate Editor with AMACOM, the book publishing division of the American Management Association, since 1988.

Earlier Posts:
Michael on the Difference Between Copyediting and Proofreading
Michael on the Evolution of Language
Michael on Permissions
Michael on Corrections and Galley Proofs
Michael on Authors and Indexes

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