Printed vs. Digital: The Debate of Our Generation

Today, I faced a choice.

Before I get to that, let’s backtrack a bit. There’s this book that I really want to read. Well, books. Are you familiar with the 39 Clues series? Well, the 39 Clues is a series of books about Amy and Dan Cahill, two kids who find out that they are part of a family that has huge influence on world events. It’s a pretty big franchise, with about thirteen or fourteen books at the moment. The series is divided into two parts. The first part includes the first ten books, which is about Amy and Dan trying to get the entire family back together. The second part is about the family and their fight against another influential clan, the Vespers.

What I love about this series is that each book is written by a different author. The first book was by Rick Riordan, the awesome author of the Percy Jackson series, and the succeeding books are written by other well-established writers in the Young Adult genre. The different styles add a great deal of excitement to the books. If you don’t believe me, take the series for a spin.

Anyway, back to the aforementioned dilemma. Basically, I really wanted to read the books. But, they’re pretty expensive and there are a lot of books in the series. So I was faced with a choice. Do I save up and buy the books like a regular chap, or channel my inner pirate and find online copies of the books in the series?

I’ve read e-books before. I’ve actually read a lot of books on a computer screen rather than on a printed page. For example, I read the entire Sookie Stackhouse series in the span of a week on my laptop. This was during the height of the True Blood hype, so don’t judge me. Also, I read the first ten books in the 39 clues series via Mobipocket. In my defense, I did not download those .epub and .mobi thingies. My then-girlfriend did, and sent the files to me as a gift for some occasion–I can’t really remember.

As far as I can tell, here are the pros of reading ebooks: (a) they’re easy to read–you can zoom, rotate, resize the text, etc; (b) my arms don’t get tired from supporting the weight of a book because I don’t carry laptops around and readers are really light; (c) trees don’t die because of my desire to read, though I don’t really have any idea what goes into making laptops and readers; and (d) I don’t have to worry about lighting anymore.

When I listed the pros of choosing ebooks over actual books, I got to thinking, what are the pros of actual books? The following are what I’ve come up with, so far:

  • The positions. Have you ever been lying on your back and tried to text by holding your phone up above your face? Well, if you’ve ever done that, then you know that it usually ends in you dropping the phone on your face. Now imagine that that phone was a reader with a 10-inch screen. Hurts to think about it, huh? Somehow, with a book, I find myself in the weirdest positions when I read. I can’t do that with a 10-inch reader or a laptop with a 14-inch screen. Also, if I were on top of some platform and there were no walls around me, I’d rather have a book than an electronic reader. Dropping a book from a height is much much less dramatic than dropping an expensive electronic device.
  • The bragging rights. When I walk into someone’s office or apartment, and I see tons of books lining their walls, my jaw will drop and I won’t be able to do anything about it. Somehow, I really don’t think you can get the same effect by showing someone your e-book collection, do you?
  • The strain. Science tells us that looking at electronic screens for too long is bad for your eyes. It can lead to a lot of medical problems, like headaches and dizziness. This is why people who work all day in the office in front of the computer are encouraged to rest their eyes every half hour or so. I spend several hours reading books, depending on how engaging it is. If you compute all the hours I’ve spent reading actual books and transform that to time spent in front of a computer, I think I’ll be blind by now.
  • The notes. For some reason, I find it great that I can write on the margins of the books that I own, so that when I open the book again, I’d know about and will be reminded of what I was thinking when I first read particular lines. E-book lovers will say that you can do this too with laptops and readers, but I think note-taking with these things take too much time and effort.
  • The battery. But, you’ll say, books don’t have batteries. Exactly. Which means that I can bring a book while travelling and I wouldn’t have to worry about it running out of energy. There was this one time when I was going to some far-off place–I don’t really remember. But I do remember that everyone else brought their gadgets while I brought a thick book. They all laughed and made fun at me and my book, but after a few hours of travel, all their batteries have died and I was still enjoying my book. Who’s laughing now?
  • The little treasures. I like going through thrift stores, second-hand bookstores, and libraries. I just love the thrill that comes with a great find. Also, sometimes I find little treasures between the pages that provide clues as to the personalities of the people who handled the book before me. Things like old bookmarks, library and restaurant receipts, and handwritten notes on the margins give me a sense of connection with past readers. One time, I found a note tucked between the pages of a book that said, “This book made me happy when I read it. I hope it does the same for you, reader. Have a great day!” It was honestly one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
  • The smell. In a Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode, viewers found out that watcher Rupert Giles hated computers. When asked why, he replied that what he didn’t like about them was the smell–computers don’t smell. “Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is. A certain flower, or a–a whiff of smoke can bring up experiences long forgotten. Books smell musty and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer is a–it, uh, it has no texture, no context. It’s there and then it’s gone. If it’s to last, then the getting of knowledge should be, uh, tangible, it should be, um, smelly.

But what I think settled this debate for me was the knowledge that you can never ever swat at a fly or a mosquito with a Kindle or your laptop. If you don’t believe me, try.

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10 thoughts on “Printed vs. Digital: The Debate of Our Generation

  1. I’ll admit, I prefer hardback or even paperback over an ebook anyday. However, for us aspiring writers it’s so much easier to get your work published online than through traditional methods. And from what I see, there’s an awful lot of talent out there that you would never see if it weren’t for ebooks, because they might not get picked up by a traditional publisher. So in my view, ebooks are great for everyone; yet it’s just not the same as holding a hardcover or paperback in your hands.

    • There’s no denying that progress means digitalization. And for aspiring writers like us, it offers a lot of opportunities. I just hope that ebooks don’t replace the printed word. They can exist side by side. There is nothing like holding a book in your hands and feeling the knowledge that it can give you.

  2. Ugh! your points are so true! I feel exactly the same way about eBooks vs. Books.. I prefer books too! for the same reasons stated above! and Because you can continue reading books without having the tablet/laptop or whatever device ebooks can be used on, die on you because they need to be charged! 😀

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