Thoughtful Thursday: Favorite reading formats

It’s been a couple of years since we’ve had a passionate discussion about our preferences for reading in non-traditional formats such as e-reader and audio, but technology has changed quite a bit since then! fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThere are many more options these days and most of us carry around devices such as phones and tablets that make it easy and convenient, and often cost-effective, to read in different formats. So, out of curiosity, and also a desire to alert readers about new technologies they may be unaware of, I have some questions:

  • What are your current format preferences?
  • How do you do most of your reading these days?
  • What devices/apps can you not live without?
  • Does new technology allow you to read more than ever? Or more easily, or less expensively?
  • Or do you still prefer to curl up with a hardback or paperback?

We look forward to hearing about your preferences and recommendations!

As usual, one commenter will choose a book from our stacks. Make sure to subscribe to comment notifications because that’s how we alert winners.

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JUSTIN BLAZIER (on FanLit's staff since September 2009) is a Cyber-Security Analyst/Network Engineer located in Northern Kentucky. Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on authors like Tolkien, Anthony, and Lewis. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. When he is not reading books he is likely playing board games or Tabletop RPGs. Justin lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife, their daughter, and Norman the dog.

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  1. I read both print books and Kindle books. I must admit to a bit of bargain hunting — if the Kindle edition is cheaper, that’s what I’ll probably buy, and vice versa. I’m also currently amassing the Song of Ice and Fire series for Kindle simply because the books are so huge and unwieldy, and I feel like I’d need to pump iron to prepare for a reread of the series.

  2. My husband and I just had a passionate discussion about this issue over breakfast this morning because of this article in the New York Times: I have a Kindle, and I need it to read books for review, but otherwise I prefer to read the real thing — which is why those tend to be the books I review first, barring something I ABSOLUTELY MUST read now (like Laird Barron’s THE CRONING,which I’m presently reading (with immense pleasure and horror) on my Kindle).

    There was a recent study that found that people retain much less of what they read on e-readers because there is no spatiality to an e-reader — none of that “the passage I’m thinking of was mid-way through the book on the right-hand page about two-thirds of the way down the page.” I think we risk overlooking the very real possibility that e-readers are making us worse readers.

    But then, what would you expect someone with a library of 15,000 books to say?

  3. Generally, I now prefer the ebook version for most reading simply because of the space and weight savings, particularly when traveling. I don’t like reading on standard LCD devices, however; a dedicated reader with eInk technology is way better. Of course, this only works for text-only works; things with graphics and/or color are usually better in another medium.

    That said, the one place where print books are still way better are textbooks and similar sorts of publications. Anything where you may be frequently skipping back and forth, cross-checking indices, taking notes, etc., is still much easier to do with a real book. There is no reason technology couldn’t replace all of this, but no one seems to have invented a reasonable electronic experience that allows the flexibility of this sort of endeavor. The reliance on touch screen technology, rather than keyboard, is not helping.

  4. @Terry, one of the things that annoys me most on an e-reader is that the pagination doesn’t stay the same if you page backward looking for a previous passage! I’ll be looking for it at the bottom of the page and it turns out to be in the middle.

  5. I much prefer ebooks. As other commenters before me mentioned, space and weight are huge factors for me. Case in point, I started re-reading the entire Wheel of Time series this month, of which I own all the novels in first edition hardcovers. My Nook Color weighs much less than most of those novels. And I can highlight and take notes and search with ease as well as lookup words or phrases via Google and Wikipeida with a single touch of my finger.

    I do still read paper printed editions of books. I no longer buy any printed books, though. If I can’t find the book as an ebook (or can’t afford it), I check it out from my library to read. But if at all possible, I just purchase the ebook so that my virtual library grows. I someday hope to eliminate all my non-collectible physical books and use my bookshelves to showcase the signed editions, complimented by artsy knick-knacks.

  6. A few years ago, I never, ever, thought I’d be happy with an e-reader but not long after I bought my first Kindle, I would already choose an electronic book over the physical one.

    The deciding factor to get one was when we moved and I had to pack, unpack, and make room for my books on the shelves -finally excepted the fact that I will never have a room dedicated to being my library. Once I got my Kindle and I was able to embrace the same feeling of possession for e-books that I do for real ones, I’ve never looked back.

    The “worse reader because of e-readers” thing definitely doesn’t apply to me. I’m a better reader because, now I don’t just forget about words I don’t know. I “click” any unknown word and instantly get the definition and retain that new info. Plus, with Kindle’s option to link to social network sites, I regularly share quotes to FB and Twitter.

    Plus, I’ve been regularly window-shopping on Amazon for books ever since they first opened. Now I can buy and start reading a book in a less than a minute. I love that ability.

    I’m on my second Keyboard Kindle -having won one as a door prize and given my first one to my wife, and I recently bought a Kindle Fire on which I’ve uploaded a ton of digital comics. So I’m assuredly in the Kindle enthusiasts’ camp.

  7. Jeremiah Whitmore /

    I have a nook simple touch, and I love it. I love the convenience and size of it, and I love the eink screen. I don’t have much experience with other reader devices or formats, so I can’t speak to their quality, though I imagine many of them are great. It’s certainly also easier to purchase a book with my device. When I finish one book, I can immediately buy the sequel, and begin reading it without having to wait, assuming there is a sequel, or that it’s been released yet.

    However, I do still love traditional books, hardcover or paperback. There’s something nice about the feel and smell of a real book.

    So for right now, I’m reading stories I’m unfamiliar with on my nook. But for stories I am familiar with and have become some of my favorites — a book series that I’m already halfway through — I will continue to buy them as they come out in hardcover, so that I can have the full set.

  8. Melanie Goldmund /

    I still love real books. I’m on a limited budget, (not to mention being a miser at heart) and I usually buy used copies for the lowest possible prices, or even swap them on the internet almost for free. Also, I refuse to buy a Kindle or other such thing until I can get anyI book that I want while living anywhere in the world that I want. I do have a Kindle app for PC that I use to sample new authors, but every so often, I’ll run up against a book that I want to try out, only to find that it’s not available in my area. That really makes me growl with frustration. But I’ll admit, there are times when I do wish I had a Kindle.

    I really identify with what Terry said about the spatiality of books. That’s exactly how I remember things! :-)

  9. I always have a book going on audio (for commuting) and on my kindle touch, but I still find myself turning back to good old-fashioned paper.

    You can’t beat the convenience of an eReader, but for me that’s really all it’s good for – when I need something convenient.

  10. Viki S. /

    I still love hard copy books the most but my Kindle does make the mess around the house a little less noticeable ;).

  11. Farin /

    I prefer e-books. I have moved like 5 times in the last 6 years and will probably move again in less than a year. It will be so nice this time around to not have 6-7 boxes full of books. Since receiving my Kindle in June I have read close to 75 books. I like to read books again sometimes so it’s nice to know I can go back to the without breaking my back during my next move. I also take my Kindle everywhere. I can now listen to audio books at work and in the car and everything is in one place. It’s wonderful. I also like that I can use sites like lendle and borrow from other readers.

  12. 90% of my reading is done in audio these days because I spend so much time at my computer that I don’t want to spend any more time sitting down to read a book. Like Bryce, I also like to read while driving. I absolutely LOVE the Audible app on my iPad (works on many phones, too). I have a Kindle, too.

    One problem with these high-tech formats, though, is that you can’t display all your books for others to see. When I visit people’s houses, the first thing I want to do is look at their bookshelves to see what they like to read. I can’t exactly ask to browse their ebooks and audiobooks, though. That would be rude. Fortunately, we can do this with our online friends at blogs and at Goodreads, I guess.

  13. SandyG265 /

    I have a kindle and read a lot of books on that. It’s convienient to have another book at hand when I finish the one I’m reading, especially if I’m not home. My biggest problem with the Kindle is that I have several hundred unread books on it and it’s hard to remember what they are just by looking at titles and authors. I tend to download books that are free and sound interesting so they often aren’t ones I’m very familiar with. I miss being able to pick up the book and read a blurb.

    I still enjoy reading physical books though. And I go to the library at least once a week. The library also has audio books which are great for the summer when we sit out on the deck and listen to them or for long car trips.

  14. Kat- I used to get visitors, but that was before that accident… we won’t talk about that. ;)

  15. I love my Kindle, I use the Kindle App on the computer, and I couldn’t live without print books, which I buy new or second-hand or trade.

    I usually have a couple of audio books ticking over as well — one for quiet evenings, a more sedate one for late at night.

    Though it has to be said (as someone mentioned in a recent review) that sometimes the audio highlights flaws that might slip by you in a print book. Sanderson’s “Alloy of Law”, for instance, has simply dreadful dialogue scene “management” — just a sequence of “blah, said X … blah, said Y … blah, said X … blah, said Y…”


  16. I have a Nook Color and I hate it. Everytime I pick it up to read something I feel like I’m getting a gym workout. It’s heavier then most single paper books. It’s like always reading a 600+ page hard cover.

    Give me dead tree format anytime.

  17. Ha, Farin, we moved this past summer and had about 350 boxes of books. And yet, we both continue to prefer real books!

  18. My husband bought me a kindle last year and I love it. Not only am I reading a wider variety of things, I’m going back and reading classics I wouldn’t have bothered buying because I can get them free.

  19. Paper books every time. The batteries don’t die. You can read them in direct sunlight and on an airplane before take-off. The paper feels good and they smell good.

    The weight and volume can be a problem on trips. I just recently got an iPad for work and I’m reading some documents on it. It is not, strictly speaking, an e-reader, but I’m liking it, and it takes up far less room than my bulky paper reports and binders would. I may graduate to one personally and try out some books on it.

  20. joe57 /

    I got a Nook Color for Christmas and its awesome. I was worried about the experience being different, but have really been surprised how much I like it.

  21. Marion- I do have to say there is a HUGE difference between reading a Kindle (and I imagine the same holds true for Nook) than reading on an I- Tablet.
    Kindle uses electronic ink which works like a printer does. They are easier to read in direct sunlight than a paperback is. In fact I think they are easier on the eyes than print on paper period. Also Amazon states the battery for a Kindle last a month without a re-charge – I get closer to 3 1/2 weeks.

  22. I prefer to read on the Kindle over the iPad because of the backlight on the iPad, but fortunately it does allow you to change the paper color to sepia and lower the contrast to make it much easier on the eyes than you’d expect. The Kindle, though, looks just like a print book.

  23. The downside of reading on a Kindle is if you read in bed at night and don’t want to keep your spouse up, you have to use a book-light as you would with a real book.
    Now that I have a Kindle Fire too, I just let Whisper sync do its thing and I interchange from reading on my Keyboard Kindle and my Kindle Fire.

  24. Melanie Goldmund, if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks. Please contact me (Tim) with your choice and a US address.


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