Monday, January 5, 2015

On (e)Books and Reading


Some time ago I blurted out on Google+ "I don't love books, I love reading" (I'd link to the post except that my default sharing was to circles only, I will try not to make that mistake again). In the context I meant that reading was what was important to me, not the physical book. But I still love the book form far more than other types of reading.

I read an amount of blog posts, articles, journals, news & magazines but none of them give me the pleasure of a good book. In a book you can immerse yourself in someone else's world, a good argument can be built up and the foundations and the structure properly explored. You don't get that from shorter forms of writing.

So I do still love the book and the experience of reading one, and I prefer them in electronic format. Not only do ebooks take up much less space (the older you get the more of a problem that is, books amass over time!) but features such as being able to highlight passages, make notes and then migrate those highlights and notes into a note taking system add a lot of value.

Another great feature of ebooks is instant delivery. Recently my wife and I were discussing the parenting challenges we have with young Master 5. Our making-it-all-up-as-we-go-along approach to parenting seems to have worked pretty well with little Miss nearly 7 but not so well with young Master 5. So we decided it was time for outside help. We were both aware of Steve Biddulph's "Raising Boys" so we decided to start there. At 11pm at night and $7 later we had a copy ready to read. For a book that is a few years old, even if I could find a physical copy it would take time to get it (and probably cost more too!). I'd rather spend that time reading.

I also still love bookshops. Aside from the books themselves there is a serendipity that can lead to reading things you might never otherwise see. Amazon's recommendation engine has given me some winners (I don't know if it was the books I was reading on running or the books on Buddhism but Running with the Mind of Meditation was a great recommendation) but it tends to expose me to more of what I already read whereas a wander around a bookshop will often turn up something completely different- Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London being a good example (go read the series it is good), I discovered Aaronovitch browsing through a bookshop in Busselton.

I buy my ebooks from Amazon because I have an account, I like and know how to use the Kindle application, and I want all of my books to be in the same place which is not possible if I buy books from other suppliers. Fortunately Amazon's prices tend to be good and their range is fantastic. But I think the true golden age of books will come when you can buy a book from any supplier and read it in whatever application you like and on whichever device you have. I don't know what it will take to bring that about but I am eagerly waiting for it. In the mean time grab a book and enjoy.