the wonderful world of veena.

03 July 2014

print v digital v audio: how do prefer your books?

With my 5-week road trip to eastern Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia right around the corner, I have been thinking a lot about what books I want to carry with me and in what form. It's made me curious about how you like to consume your books. Are you a die-hard physical book lover, or have you completely made the switch over to digital, reading primarily on your e-reader or tablet? Or do you prefer to have someone else read to you, choosing audiobooks over other mediums?

I am probably somewhere in the middle, but I still lean heavily toward having an actual book to hold in my hands.

For years after e-readers were introduced, I was a staunch opponent. For me, there is nothing quite like the physical feel of a book in my hands. Carrying it around with me, underlining and highlighting passages that touch a chord, being able to see the wear and tear of a book I've loved, and above all, being able to share a book with a friend once I've finished it. There isn't much that can top that for me.

But then again, books can be heavy. They take up space. They become more and more expensive with each passing year. And as someone with a self-professed book-buying problem, it tends to set me back a pretty penny. Paperbacks tend to be lighter and cheaper than hardcover books, so I have generally gravitated toward them, but every now and then a book will come along that I'm too excited about, and I'll cave and buy the hardcover so I can read it as soon as it is released.

A few years ago, when my brother gave me his hand-me-down first generation iPad, I decided to give it a whirl. Because I am a Barnes & Noble member - and former employee - I decided to download the Nook app and try it out for one book, just to see how I liked it. I started with Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, John Wood's story of how he left a high-paying executive job with Microsoft to found Room to Read and work to bring literacy and education to millions of children around the world. The book was great, and the experience of reading it on a tablet was not as bad as I expected it to be. And it was convenient.

It came in especially handy during my time in India and Nepal. Because I was so transient, and because I was trying to travel as lightly as possible, having the tablet came in handy, because it meant I could download multiple books without having to include that weight in my baggage, especially when I was in rural Nepal and didn't have ready access to a bookstore. So I downloaded about 15 books and then carried one physical book with me, trading it in at second-hand bookshops for a new one as and when I could.

An added bonus of having the tablet was that I could subscribe to magazines as well. Because I'm so transient, I don't generally go in for magazine subscriptions, but I often love reading some of the articles. Having the Nook app meant that I could have magazines at my fingertips even while living amongst the rice paddies for 2 months.

And last year, for my birthday, my brother bought me a Kindle Paperwhite. I had just become an Amazon Prime member and had learned of the deals afforded me if I also owned a Kindle, such as the Kindle Owner's Lending Library, and he knew how much the idea of free books appealed to me. I've used it pretty often over the last year and have enjoyed it, particularly because it is much lighter and more compact than the iPad and has a better battery life [and because Amazon prices are often cheaper than B&N].

But through it all, I am still a lover of books. For every book I read on my Kindle, I read another 5 in hard copies. If the price between the paperback and the Kindle version is less than $2, I'm more likely to go ahead and buy the actual book. Sometimes that is not the case, however, and the price difference will be more significant; on those occasions, I'll download it. But this is also because I've been mostly at home for the last 6 months. If I'm traveling - as I will be for 5 weeks starting next week - carrying the e-reader is lighter and more convenient.

And then there are audiobooks. The first book I listened to was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows during my European travels in 2010. I had read the book when it released in 2006, but I had heard so much about the audio versions of the book that I gave it a go on my journey and found it was great for long travels when I couldn't read [especially crowded commutes or overnight train journeys when the lights are turned off]. I've been an intermittent listener of books over the years, but I do enjoy audiobooks for longer car journeys, particularly if they're read by Neil Gaiman. His voice has gotten me through some seemingly never-ending journeys to and from Little Rock, and I have come to the conclusion that I want him to follow me around and narrate my life. It's not too much to ask, right?

Books have always been, and will always be, a huge part of my life, regardless of which form they come in. Reading is how I unwind after a long day, it's how I pass long journeys [particularly those 30-hour ones between the States and India], and it's how I entertain myself whenever I have to wait at a doctor's office or for my car to get serviced or for friends who are running late. It's rare that you will find me without a book, in some form or another.

How do you prefer to consume your books? And why?

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