Monday, 28 May 2012

The Three 'Bs' of Reading - Books vs Kindles, iPads, etc...

I had a conversation yesterday with  colleague that highlighted, yet again, the divide between all the new digital technology for reading against traditional books. She's an iPad user, with lots of books loaded onto her device, which she swears by for its portability and convenience. She said she's about to head off on a three week trip, and that means she needs to take a lot of books - and if it were actual books, that's a potential luggage issue - hence the value of her iPad. I get the convenience - I really do. However, I have a number of worries about all these devices.

As I've mentioned before - in my very first blog post - my No.2 son reads on his iPad. Prior to purchasing this little beast, he had books downloaded onto his iPhone and read them that way. Another friend of mine has a Kindle and gets nearly all her reading matter via eBook downloads to the Kindle.

Twenty - No.2 son - complains frequently of his disturbed and erratic sleep patterns and almost constant headaches. He takes his iPad to bed with him to read before lights out - as generations of us have done with books. However, I question the relaxation and wind-down factor when it is yet another screen that his eyes and brain are having to deal with late at night.

Like me, Twenty is in a job where he sits in front of a computer screen all day. He reads his iPad on the bus en route to work, and again going home at the end of the day. He then might watch some TV, or play some games on his home computer. And then to bed with the iPad. In my conversation with my colleague yesterday, I raised this - saying that for myself, apart from my love of actual books as objects, after looking at a screen all day, the last thing I want to do is be reading from another one at night... That smacks of more work! I even find myself loath to turn the TV on when I get home these days. We're saturated by digital media and it's well-nigh impossible to avoid it these days.

And so we come to the title of this post. The conversation yesterday wrapped up with what my colleague called 'The Three Bs of reading' - where an iPad, iPhone, Kindle, or any other electronic device is redundant. In bed, at the beach and in the bath. I don't know where all you other book junkies read. I tend not to read at the beach, mostly because I'm not a great beach person. I do read in bed and in the bath. The vulnerabilities of the digital devices to the latter two environments hardly needs to be spelled out - I'm sure you can all relate stories of your own, or of others, of the disastrous combination of water and these devices... And yes, a book dropped in the bath can be a fairly sorry object - but once dry, even if a bit wrinkled, it still works! As far as reading in bed is concerned, I still maintain that inflicting the phsical processing that has to go on in our brains to deal with yet another lot of pixels, versus the stability of a printed page has to be detrimental to our eyes, brains and subsequent ability to drift quietly into sleep.

Where and how do you all read? Any thoughts?


  1. I find myself at odds with my own philosophy right now. I don't read as much as I used to, even with the iPad in my bag every day. I actually spend less time reading and more time writing at the moment, which reminds me that I am well behind posting a few blog posts of my own...

    None the less; the books I often read are nearly impossible to purchase in Australia. They're from a specific publisher in the UK and often take a couple of weeks to import and then I have to put them somewhere. The iBook store has most if not all of the titles available from said publish; if sometimes a little bit delayed.

    I do pick up a real book from time to time. I have several; including a small portion of your own collection. I; however; find the sleekness and weight, and the ability to not actually damage it easily of the iPad more reassuring than an actual book. I have nearly destroyed a few books because they lived in my bag as I read them over a 2 month period. My iPad on the other hand is much sturdier and doing much better than the note books it sits next to; who have occupied a place in my bag for half as long.

    As for the 3 B's - I don't read in bed much any more. I tend to be on facebook and writing, etc. I don't go to the beach - we know this and I don't have a bath; and on the odd occasion that I am actually in one - I tend to fall asleep.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I hereby give you permission to carry those books of mine you have around with you to get a bit batttered in your bag as you read them bit by bit. My copy of Virginia Woolf's 'A Room of One's Own' is looking a tad weary these days - it's small and easy to cart around for my odd snactches of commuter reading... At worst, it just means a replacement copy if the books get beyond staying in one piece for reading. And that's good for the bookshops! Don't forget, I have your Arthur Ransomes, and they are also a little worn now from being well read.

  2. Interesting post. I have mixed feelings about ipads and e-readers, while I can see their virtues in many respects I still prefer the old fashioned book. I have tried to read on the ipad but I find the backlit screen can be a bit hard on the eyes and if I try to read on the ipad in a moving vehicle I start to feel a bit headachy and sick, that dosn't happen if I am reading a book. I do read blogs at night in bed on my laptop but only for a short time and then it is back to a book to unwind. I also read in the bath and as to the beach well I generally find an excuse to find a good coffee shop and read a book rather than do battle with sun and sand, much to the annoyance of the rest of the family.

    1. I must say, I'm with you on the beach! Give me shade, a comfy spot and a supply of coffee for preference if I'm going to settle in for a read away from home.

      Since our move, my work space is in our bedroom, so I'm trying to be very disciplined about switching the laptop off and leaving it on the worktable at the end of the day - so that means no laptop in bed, not that I used to do that very much anyway. I just spend so much time in front of computer screens that the through of reading books on another screen feels anything but restful. There's something inherently comforting for me in the tactile qualities of books, particularly if, like yesterday, I'm on the couch for the day because I was unwell - cups of tea, toast, book in hand, know? Because, in that situation, a screen version of the book just doesn't cut it!