We continue to experience some books long after we’ve read them.
Mounds of research has already been released around the advantages of print books over e-books. Some of the most oft-cited advantages involve how we retain information better from print books vs. e-books as well as how print books are better for our sleep. Other more qualitative arguments for print often revolve around the deeper connection elicited from a “real” book’s physical nature, the ability to lend physical books to friends, as well the ability to feel one’s progress as a person makes their way through a print book.
More recently, issues around ownership of e-books came into focus when Microsoft announced the shuttering of its e-book store and the subsequent removal of previously purchased books. This, in turn gave even more support for print.
All of these arguments have validity, but, in my opinion all miss the biggest advantage of print books: how we experience the book after we read it.
Perhaps you’re an acolyte of Marie Kondo and follow her advice of not owning more than thirty books. If you’re like me though, and have amassed any considerable number of physical books, you have probably at some point found yourself thumbing through some of your old favorites — perhaps even going so far as to re-read a passage or two.
In recent years, as my bookshelves filled and my apartments failed to grow at the speed of my book collections, I found myself buying approximately half my new books in e-book format and half in print. Over time, what I realized was that books I had bought and read in e-book form occupied much less mental space than books I had bought and read in physical form. It wasn’t necessarily that I was remembering them less (maybe I was, though I didn’t notice this), but that I was being reminded of them less because I wasn’t physically seeing them on my shelves on a regular basis.
What I realized was that much as a song overheard on the radio can bring us back to particular points in our life, our chance physical encounters with previously read books help us re-experience what it was like reading the book in question, ultimately deepening our connection to the book and the point in our lives during which we read them. When we buy e-books as opposed to print books, we rob ourselves of these chance encounters and, in so doing, limit the impact that our books have on us in the long term. Yes, you can tap through your library of old e-books on your Kindle, but doing this takes conscious effort and isn’t the same as having books staring you in the face every day in your living room.
There’s no question that e-books are here to stay and can be both convenient as well as incredibly efficient from a space standpoint. Still, if you suspect that a particular book is one that you might want to be a part of your mind/ life going forward, you might just want to pick up a real, physical copy.
By the way, I’m Cam Lay. I’m a writer (mostly of fiction, learn more at www.camrhyslay.com) and have helped grow a few startups over the years, most recently, Skillshare, where I was the VP of Marketing