As someone who spends a lot of time reading books, I also spend a lot of time thinking about how I read. In today’s world, that thinking is dominated by the question of format; should I be going with print, ebook, or audio? It’s not a question that I have an easy answer for.
I should first make it clear, however, that I don’t think that there is an objectively superior format. I think all formats have their own advantages, and I don’t really care what format other people use (as long as they do use some format!).
For the longest time, I used print books exclusively and religiously. I loved the feel of them in my hand, and I loved collecting them onto my bookshelf and being surrounded by them. ‘A room without books is a body without a soul’ (Cicero) and ‘I cannot sleep if I am not surrounded by books’ (Jorge Luis Borges) were quotes that rang particularly true for me.
But then I moved to study in Scotland, and my 600-book library wasn’t something I could fit in my carry-on. I could only read the books that happened to be with me, and during vacations back home, I had to try and decide what I would like to read for the next four months before my next vacation. This started making me much more sympathetic towards ebooks.
So I got a kindle, and I started buying ebooks. After a while, the convenience of it overwrote all my previous hesitations enough that I stopped buying physical books entirely. As I kept reading more ebooks, I noticed that what my girlfriend’s mother had said rang true: when you’re immersed in a book, it’s the words that matter, not where the words are displayed.
I also discovered that ebooks were the solution to my compulsive book buying habit. That 600-book library? I’ve only read half of them, and at the time that I moved to Scotland, I was buying books faster than I could read them. Ebooks solved this problem because of their constant availability; living in Finland, I had a restricted selection of English books that I could find in bookstores, and ordering books was quite expensive. With ebooks, I had access to all books at all times. So, I made a deal with myself: excepting exceptional circumstances, I could buy any book I wanted, but whenever I bought a book I had to start reading it immediately. That solved my compulsive book buying.
That’s where I’m at today with ebooks. But I do still read physical books at times as well, and whenever I do, I’m struck by two things: I still love the feel of holding a book (during all those times between being immersed in a book); but, a kindle is much more comfortable to hold, and allows for a wider range of reading possibilities. At times, this makes me feel torn about my commitment to ebooks. But, the practical concerns are always so strong I don’t ever seriously consider switching back to physical books.
My past with audiobooks is a much shorter and simpler one. After I became open to trying ebooks, I also became more open to trying audiobooks. But I quickly noticed that I’m not the sort of person who can sit still and read audiobooks without doing anything else; whenever I tried, my mind quickly started to wander away, and I had to consciously try to refocus onto the book. So, I realised that I needed to figure out a mindless task that I could do while listening to a book. And that’s where I am today, still trying to figure out that mindless task. I did find that walking while listening to audiobooks worked for me; but I also found that I’m too lazy to go on walks consistently.
What about you? Which format do you prefer? Any recommendations on mindless tasks to do while listening to audiobooks?