Oct 29, 2013

The Problems With Physical Books

I do most of my reading on screens. I buy paper books only when it's some really amazing book or it's a book that is really special, a classic or sorts. Or if i am giving a book as a gift to someone. Or if it's on a sale. The first problem with buying physical books is that they demand space. It's fine when you buy 2-3 books a month, but add them up and in a year, you've to devote some really good shelf space to that. Keep doing that for five years or so and soon you'll be keeping books in towers on the floors and god help you if you decide to move town.

You might not want to leave your books and you might not want to give them away. Even if you don't read those books every again, just owning them and possessing them creates a logistical nightmare that can only be solved if you're too rich to not care about trivial things like storage space for books. Sadly, I am not that rich yet and the living space is precious, so less paper books for me.

There are even more problems with physical books. They're basically designed to be attractive, and I've been burned too many times by reading a blurb that promised something amazing but the meat of the book was tasteless and vapid. The Unknown Soldier is one book that comes to mind. I picked the book based on the blurb, but struggled to read through it. That is not the only book. Lot of examples where I picked the book based on reading a few inner pages, blurb, cover image and the book turns out to be a damp squib. Been burned too many times and now those books are just collecting dust somewhere in my house. I don't feel like throwing them away, because that just doesn't feel right. Physical books are harder to transport and even harder to ship. Oh, and if you're shipping a book from US stores, the shipping charges are more than the price of the books. It's insane. 

And then add the problem of environmental degradation to physical books and that's another can of worms. Every books printed on paper is part of some dead tree. Why can't we print the books on recycled paper? Which is not really a solution, because recycling also takes a lot of energy which is produced by burning coal etc, it's a vicious circle.

With the technology available today, it's not too difficult to create a complete reading schedule through gadgets. There are some puritans who say that they like the feel of a book in their hands, and the smell of the book etc etc etc. Well, all that is good and fine. Such people should keep reading books the way they like it.

As for me, I've moved on to 98% reading on screens. Next post, I will talk about how I read on screens, which apps, gadgets, file formats, etc go best for reading on screens.

[Drop me a line @69fubar on twitter if you'd like to talk about something I said in this post]