Alexandra Alter wrote an article in the NY Times this week about technology and our reading habits. Alter’s piece does a good job of reviewing differences between print and electronic readers as well as some changes in recent years in the publishing industry. Like Alter, I prefer eBooks because of the convenience, searchability, and portability. But the base audience in her article is people who buy books not borrow them. She didn’t make one mention of the public library.
Generally speaking, I search my local library first when I want to read a book. I’ve used print, electronic, and audio versions of books in the past. I know library borrowing isn’t for everyone but here are a few reasons why I prefer it:
- I rarely go back and read books of fiction or non-fiction twice. So owning a copy on my bookshelf at home or in an eLibrary doesn’t provide meaningful value to me. If I borrow the book and want to take notes then I use a service like Evernote.com to keep thoughts and learnings.
- When I read for leisure, I don’t have to have the book right at the moment when I want to read it. I don’t mind waiting until I can either go to the library or when a copy becomes available in the eLibrary. It’s just not an urgent matter.
- The eBooks from local library are available through the Amazon Kindle reader or through another eReader app on my tablet. Checking-out an eBook or audio book is as simple as buying it.
- If the physical copy of the book is at another branch in the library system not close to me, then they will deliver it to my local branch for free.
- There’s no buyer’s remorse with library books. I’ve started a few books that I didn’t like because of the story-line, characters, or writing style. Since I didn’t pay for the book, it was very simple to stop reading and move-on to the next book.
To be fair, borrowing library books does have some frustrations. Availability is limited by the number of copies purchased by the system and number of borrowers ahead of me. This means popular books can have wait times for over a year. If this happens, I have to decide if I’m willing to wait, if I want to purchase it, or if I should search for another book. I usually just search for another book. There are lots of stories to be read.
So technology has altered my reading habits somewhat. I prefer an eBook but will read the paper version without issue if that is what is available. I should also mention that taking an eBook to the beach makes me nervous because of the sand and water around the electronic devices. This is one setting where I prefer a paper book.
Onward and Upward!