E-reader or physical books?
I have always enjoyed the simple pleasure of picking up a physical book. Turning the pages and slowly letting a story unravel. A few years ago I added to my collection of physical books a digital intruder—the e-reader. Feared by its analog cousins for more than a decade, it still hasn’t managed to make physical books a thing of the past. It has many benefits, but also clear drawbacks. Quoting Meryl Halls, managing director of the Booksellers’ Association:
“I think the e-book bubble has burst somewhat, sales are flattening off, I think the physical object is very appealing. Publishers are producing incredibly gorgeous books, so the cover designs are often gorgeous, they’re beautiful objects” Source
The first e-reader I got was the Kobo Glo HD (link to the newer Aura, same format). It has served me well for 5 years. It has a 6” inch screen which makes it small enough to fit in a jacket or even jeans back pocket. Compared to a Kindle it’s not as locked into a specific ecosystem. I just upgraded to Boox Poke2 (link to the bigger Nova2, great for note taking and sketches. Poke2 available in the official Boox Shop).
It is one of the few available models on the market that still have the smaller size (it’s even thinner than the Glo HD). The reason for the upgrade was backlight. Glo HD only had the cold light and even at 1% brightness it was disruptive for sleep when reading in bed (melatonin increases from blue light exposure). The Boox Poke2 has dynamic warm light.
Pros and cons
- Backlit. Enables reading anywhere (hotels without reading light, airplanes, cars).
- Can stand. With the right case, you can read easily without having to hold the book open.
- Built-in dictionaries.
- Share online articles for later reading.
- Easier on the eyes than regular screens.
- Hundreds or even thousands of books wherever you go.
- Instant access to books you’re interested in.
- Hundreds or even thousands of books carried with you…
- Instant access to books you’re interested in…
- Time consuming to go back and forward between sections (unless you have set convenient bookmarks).
The curse of availability
The sheer amount of books available at your fingertips is both a blessing and a curse. It can quickly lead to content overload. Before you know it, you have 89 books on the device that you just have to read right now. This is distracting and might cause a certain stress or even guilt for not getting to them all.
It’s similar to the difference between physical CDs and today’s streaming services. Back in the days the physical medium favored playing the albums on repeat, learning the lyrics (while flipping through the cover case) until every song was engraved into memory. Today, streaming services encourage us to jump from playlist to playlist, searching for the next instant hit.
As our attention span shortens, the ease with which you can jump from book to book in the e-reader can become an obstacle to experiencing true joy in reading.
The best of both worlds
- Set a hard limit on how many books you allow on your e-reader at one time. 5 seems reasonable. A few more for a longer trip.
- Get physical books if you suspect you’ll want to jump back and forward between sections or use it as a reference (example of a book that works best in physical form: Ray Dalio’s Principles).
- Keep the books you want to read in a list on a service such as Goodreads rather than stored on your e-reader, as it becomes too tempting to move on to the latest and greatest.
- Support your local bookstore and get secondhand books whenever you find something that’s on your reading list.
For recommendations on what to load your e-reader with, check out my post on books for productivity