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Paper or plastic: How do you read your books?

Categories: off the clock


Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.netAfter a busy day of work and parenting, a lot of people like to end the night cozied up with a good book. Well, maybe not “cozied,” since recent research shows a lot more of us are choosing the cool glow of e-readers and tablets over the familiar warmth of paper books. And when I say “us,” of course, I really mean “you,” or perhaps “other people not like us old-school fogies with our quaint affinity for ‘pages’ and ‘bookmarks’/you’ll have to pry this printed book from my cold dead hands/etc.” We paper-book types are not yet a dying breed, but studies show we may be headed that way.

A survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project shows use of e-readers and tablets rose in 2012 (up to 33 percent, compared to 18 percent in 2011) and that the percentage of those who read printed books dropped (to 67 percent from 72 percent) in the same period of time. Now, the e-reader numbers obviously grew in part because more people are acquiring e-readers who didn’t have them before, but the fact that readers of paper books dropped during this same time shows that in some cases e-readers are becoming a replacement for the real thing. Gasp.

Skipping over the minor details that (a) I work in book publishing and (b) because I read books for a living–and mostly on a screen–chances are slim I’ll be getting an e-reader during this lifetime, I’m curious to hear some real-life data. Do you read e-books? (The study shows tablets are now more popular than e-readers; do you have a preference?) Are e-books replacing *gasp* printed books in your life? I’ve heard e-books are cheaper, easier to get, easier to travel with, and somehow faster to read (wha?), and although I will swear on my forty-pound abridged OED that comes in a box with a little drawer for its own magnifying glass that I’ll never make the switch, I’m…intrigued.

Image courtesy of adamr/

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7 comments so far...

  • ‘…somehow faster to read…” I heard that before I even bought my first e-reader and didn’t believe it, but I believe now.

    I think it really depends on where you read as to what works for you. My husband only reads in bed, only. I read everywhere, doctor’s office, outside, bathtub, anywhere I can carry a book. I’ve even been known to read while stopped in traffic waiting for an accident to be cleared.

    I also enjoy large books, its much easier to hold my Kindle in bed than a floppy, heavy, huge book. So that is how its faster to read an ebook versus regular, I’m more likely to pick up my light Kindle and slip it inside my purse than to shove a huge paperback inside.

    Kara  |  April 10th, 2013 at 7:07 am

  • I still love paper books, but downloading e-books from the library is (free, and) easy and it’s nice to have something to read if I get stuck in a waiting room or something.

    Angella  |  April 10th, 2013 at 10:29 am

  • Paper. Looking at a screen doesn’t feel relaxing, a screen feels like work. Plus, I’d hate to drop a tablet in the bath….

    I love the process of reserving books from the library and physically going to pick them up and search for more. I will say, I prefer the electronic search engine over old school card catalog’s..

    Christina  |  April 17th, 2013 at 3:46 pm

  • I have the Kindle keyboard and I don’t see myself going back to paper.
    - I like that I can make the font larger (I’m only 34 but it makes a difference).
    - I live outside of the U.S. for half of the year and getting books shipped is expensive and take too long.
    - I can borrow books from my library when I’m not at home.
    - I have a startling number of free e-books from Amazon, over 500.
    - If I hear about a book I can read a sample an buy it right away without getting off my duff
    - I spend a lot less than I would buying paper books. I hardly ever pay more than $3.99
    - I simply can’t travel with a suitcase full of books. Airlines be cray-cray with extra luggage and weight fees.

    April  |  April 17th, 2013 at 5:42 pm

  • I prefer paper because I find that the glowing light of the tablet keeps my brain wired. I usually read before bed so that I can fall asleep. Reading digital was keeping me up longer than I had planned.

    Tiera  |  April 17th, 2013 at 7:33 pm

  • I read books almost exclusively on an e-reader. I have a tablet, but prefer the screen, the lighting and the size of the e-reader over the tablet. I gave up on paper books about 4 years ago (I’m on my 3rd kindle). I probably read one paper book per year. With the e-reader, at night I can read in bed without disturbing my husband, I can take as many books with me as I want (great for traveling), and I LOVE the dictionary feature of my e-reader. Plus I read faster, and it keeps track of where I am in the book.

    Kristen  |  April 19th, 2013 at 11:11 am

  • I’m with Tiera - if I’m on the computer I can still be wired up at 11pm - if I’m reading a book I start relaxing and eyes get heavy.
    I don’t actually own an e-reader. Mostly I’ve stayed print for cost, both of the e-reader and the books to go on it. Now that the cost is coming down and our library finally allows borrowing of them I may get one. Of course it is hard for a librarian to see the end of books…

    Mich  |  April 29th, 2013 at 8:28 am