A couple years ago, a friend was living in a downtown condo. He and his wife had instituted a “one in, one out” policy for books—if they wanted to get a new book, they had to get rid of one first. It wasn’t an arbitrary (or easy) decision. They simply didn’t have any more room for books.
They snatched up a first-generation Kindle as soon as they were released. They loved it. Soon, they were buying most books for the Kindle simply because they didn’t take up more shelf space.
Print books are wonderful, and I doubt I’ll ever banish them from my life. But most of my reading has transitioned to digital books because they have several distinct advantages.
- Digital books take up less space to store. We have two bookselves, and they’re pretty much full. I probably have as many digital books as I have print books. They don’t take up shelf space, they don’t need dusting, and they’re much easier to pack up and move. (This is also why I’ve switched to buying movies through iTunes.)
- I always have something interesting to read. When I find a few minutes and want to read, I don’t have to spend time hunting for something good to read or settle for the least-outdated magazine laying around. I always have my phone with me, and usually the iPad. Whether or not I was anticipating a wait, I’ve got a book handy—a good book, something that I want to read.
- I can carry many more books with me. At church, I carry over thirty manuals and books, almost a hundred magazines, and the scriptures. I’ll only use two or three of these in a given week, but I never know which two or three it will be. I’m glad I have it handy when I need it. It would be impossible to carry a stack of print books like that, but it’s trivial with digital books.
- I don’t hesitate to mark up a digital book. For some reason, I am loath to mark up a print book. I don’t know if it’s from taking care of library books or surrendering/reselling textbooks at the end of the year or something else entirely. Whatever it is, I don’t feel that hesitance with digital books. I highlight passages I want to remember and make margin notes to my heart’s content. It helps greatly when I’m trying to find a particular passage again later.
- You can search them. No need to flip through the entire book or guess the relevant term in the index. If you can remember a key word or a phrase, you can find the passage you’re looking for in seconds.
- Word definitions are a tap away. When I first read Jesus the Christ and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I had a dictionary right there by my side. It was cumbersome, but I struggled my way through it. Digital book readers usually have a dictionary built-in, so you can highlight an unfamiliar word and learn its meaning without having to set down the book. This is so natural that I miss the functionality when I go back to reading parint. (I’ll even admit to trying to tap on paper once to define a word; I’ve also glanced at the top of a page to see what time it is.)
Digital books don’t just provide a great reading experience. They can do things that print books can’t do simply because they’re digital. They’re flexible. They’re interactive. They can pull up-to-date information from the internet. Studying World War II? Listen to Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” speech before the House of Commons. Reading up on home repair? Watch a video on how to snake a drain. I’m excited for what education has the power to be while my children are in school.
Print books will always have a place in my heart and in my home. Full stop. But digital books are convenient, and they’re only going to become more popular and more capable.