Five Things Friday: Paper vs. Digital

The debate about paper books versus digital books continues. In my post earlier this week, I thought that the argument is rather moot. I don’t think it is necessarily a case of one over the other. Personally, I use my iPad to read ebooks or or content that is exclusively online and still have a sizeable paper library of fiction and non-fiction books – still my favourite way to really enjoy thought-provoking works.

1. The Power of Paper in a Digital Era – Scholars have learned so much about writer’s through their collected papers and you have to wonder what will be lost when writers only work in digital, not keeping each draft of a work.

2. Going West by Maurice Gee – another fabulous book trailer/video produced by the New Zealand Book Council for a book originally published in 1994 (found via Brainpicking.org).

3. An hilarious cartoon about the future library.

4. It’s a Book by Lane Smith – another funny book trailer that celebrates the magic of paper books.

5. Love Downton Abbey (PBS) but want to read novels set during the same time period? Russell Smith provides several excellent options, including The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. The movie is also excellent.

Five Things Friday: Books, Books and More Books

  1. I’m looking forward to reading Desire to Inspire: Using Creative Passion to Transform the World by Christine Mason Miller. It features contributions from many of my favourite bloggers and artists.
  2. Books, books and more books. This is my idea of heaven.
  3. I loved this magical, morbid and slightly subversive stop action film by Spike Jonze (found via Brainpicker).
  4. I was very sad to hear that George Whitman, the legendary owner of the Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Company, passed away earlier this week.
  5. The book as a work of art. Lumiere Press produces the limited-edition Steichen: Eduard et Voulangis, including two never before published photographs by Edward Steichen.

iPad vs. Books

A couple of months ago, I bought an iPad2. I’d looked at the first iPad when it came out and wasn’t that impressed, mainly due to the challenges of using the onscreen keypad.  Of course, you can add an external keyboard, but what’s the point? Why not just buy a laptop? Instead, I bought a MacBook Air.I love it and it is fantastic for travel or even just popping around to a coffee shop to do some writing. But reading anything lengthy isn’t the comfortable. Let’s face it, it is hard to snuggle up under a blanket and read a book on a laptop.

I was mainly motivated to buy the iPad because I was taking an online course and needed to purchase several books. The eBook versions were all half the cost of the hardcover/paperback versions. Plus, two of the books weren’t available in local stores and would take at least a week to be shipped to me and I didn’t want to wait that long. I chose the iPad over an e-reader because I didn’t want to be limited by the format or store. I needed to order Canadian books available for Kobo and books only available on the Kindle. An iPad gave me complete freedom to buy books from whomever I wanted. Of course, this freedom comes at significant cost. I bought the iPad model without 3G access, since WIFI is available just about everywhere these days (even McDonalds!), so I saved a couple hundred bucks there.

I installed the Kobo app and was immediately disappointed to discover that I couldn’t purchase books within the app (unlike the laptop/desktop version), but was forced to purchase them in Safari. Apple forced this restriction on Kobo, as well as Kindle. This was annoying, but workable.

There are some things I liked about reading a book on my iPad – being able to change the font, font-size, highlight text and being able to get a book in seconds. I also enjoy reading classics and was thrilled to find a huge number of literary classics available free of charge.

But within two days of installing Kobo, I discovered some of the drawbacks. While I was on the subway – and far away from a WIFI signal – the app suddenly shut down and logged me out of my account. This meant that the book I was reading had disappeared. I was able to download it again from my account at no extra charge the next time I was in WIFI range, but it meant that I suddenly didn’t have my book to read during a long subway ride. This happened twice and each time, my notes and highlights also disappeared. This was very annoying and just doesn’t happen to paper books. The Kobo app also has a notification system that sends pop up messages at weird times related to the time of day or how far I’d gotten in my book. It took me a little clicking to figure out how to shut this off.

The latest version of Kobo also allows for more integration with Facebook, Twitter and the Kobo online community. While reading, I can see what others are saying about the same book. Some people might find this exciting, but I don’t. For me, reading has always been a solitary pursuit. I dive into a book to leave the world I’m living in to discover a new world. I don’t want to be interrupted.

This also related to the biggest drawback of the iPad – it can do everything. I find it easy to be distracted by checking my email, Twitter or Facebook accounts. Reading on an iPad just isn’t relaxing in the same way as reading a traditional book. Plus, I’d freak out if I dropped it into the bathtub!

I’m finding I’m using my iPad more for checking my Twitter stream and reading/bookmarking blog posts and articles. The Dropbox app has made is easy to read my files, especially works in progress, and the Instapaper app makes web articles I book mark accessible even when I’m offline. I hate the clutter caused by stacks of magazines, so I think the Newstand add will be useful too.

But, I have to say I still enjoy reading an old-fashioned book more than I enjoy reading on a screen. I love the solidity of a book and being able to see how far along I am in a book. Reaching the last couple of pages of a book just doesn’t have the same thrill on a device like it does in a paper book. Plus, I love being able to open a book at a random spot and flip through the pages until an image or passage catches my attention. This isn’t as easy to do in an e-book. Plus, there is compelling evident that being able to pay close attention to a book and read deeply improves your brain.

I’m not a complete luddite and I am aware that in the not-to-distant future, most books and other media will only be available electronically. Eventually, I’ll get used to reading on electronic devices, but paper books will continue to be a very important part of my life.

Writers’ Libraries

Bookcase

I love looking at pictures of writer’s desks, offices and libraries.

I was poking around my local independent bookstore and found a new book Unpacking My Libraries: Writers and Their Books by Leah Price. Flavorwire has posted several of the images from the book on their site, along with classic images of the libraries of Mark Twain and Eudora Welty. I love the fact that in all of the libraries, despite having wall-to-wall shelves, there are still books piled up on couches and on the floor. It makes me feel good about my own overflowing collection of books. Despite four bookcases, I still have books piled up on the floor and coffee table. I have tried to cull my collection a couple of times, but the books continue to pile up. At least it is a healthy addiction, and as these famous writers’ libraries demonstrate, reading is an essential part of being a writer.