Hey can I tell you how I’ve been reading my books these past few years?
Here’s how: I read them in three ways. They are print, audio and (to a far lesser extent) electronic. In that order.
Okay, that’s it. You can stop reading now. I’m done.
Except, I’m not. Actually.
No, I’m not trying to tease. Just wanted to help those who only have time for ICYMI (in case you missed it)-type summaries.
But if you have time and don’t mind reading further for, oh another (gulp) 900 words or so, where I unpack more about what works for me as a reader (and perhaps for you), then let’s do this shall we?
Print is still king!
When electronic and digital publications first came on the scene, many predicted the demise of print books, not to mention brick and mortar bookstores (Borders anyone?).
Let’s face it: you can carry more titles in a Kindle or even just your phone’s Kobo app than lugging a backpack stuffed with thick tomes! So when you’re flying, taking a cruise or on a road trip (the world’s gradually returning to pre-Covid traveling now right?), all you need is one lightweight, palm-size device packed with hundreds of the latest novels or self-help books. And you’re all set!
When you also consider the ever-declining newspaper print business worldwide, it’s really not hard to conclude that all’s gloom and doom for print. (Though I, err hum, humbly prop up the print business with a daily subscription of newspapers since 2000, I must admit I’m no big fan of the black stains they leave on my fingers. Yucks!)
But hang on!
Book sales have actually defied punters, even in recent years as we battle the pandemic. I suspect Covid helped, since curling up with a new paperback novel that smells and feels like manna from heaven during lockdowns, beats moping by the window any day!
So no matter the naysayers, print is clearly still king!
And in my humble opinion, electronic options can’t fully replace the mighty print for a few outstanding reasons. Of which these three, well, stand out for me.
Three reasons why
Firstly, the tactile experience.
I think of the first time I held Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land” (2020) or Philip Yancey’s “Where The Light Fell“ (2021). The smooth texture of their jacket covers, the fresh factory whiff of a new book bounded snugly in their brown paper delivery packages, and the eye-catching designs on the covers. They conjure up for me fond memories of languid afternoons spent at the local library or the bookshop around the corner when I was a wee lad.
These sensations simply cannot be replaced by the cold metallic feel and prison bar odour of a digital device!
Secondly, flipping pages. It’s both fun and easy to thumb back and forth between pages of a print book yet never losing the page you’re currently on. Can’t feel that with a Kindle, no sir-ee (sorry Mr Bezos)! Devices might have functions to bookmark pages or highlight passages. But really, the relative ease of doing all that with print books makes them hands-down the obvious winners!
Thirdly, print’s just easier on the eye and less distracting to read, compared to squinting as blue light emanating from mobile screens tire our eyes daily while we work from home. Let’s also not forget the irritating pop-up notifications that attack our senses every other minute, enticing us to turn away from our reading and check out another urgent message or, worse, a tempting TikTok!
Need I say more about this retinal assault that’s not already been said ad nauseum?!
Having said all that though, there is one electronic gadgetry that’s actually good for reading. It’s audio books. And yes I believe audio is now an indispensable companion to an enjoyable reading experience alongside print.
If print is king, then audio has to be queen!
Since leaving full-time employ in 2019, I’ve had more time to indulge in the simple pleasures of life.
Like, you guessed it, reading.
But more than that, I’ve had the opportunity to discover what, for me at least, are new ways to enhance the whole reading experience.
It’s not that I’ve lost my love for sitting down on a comfy armchair and reading print books. Far from it. I still love reading print for all the above reasons, especially the last one.
But precisely because of the excess screen time all around, even reading pages of a book for anything more than 30 minutes can seem a tad much these days. More so if, like me, you’re past 50! Say what you will about “you’re only as old as you feel”, biology doesn’t lie!
Which is where, thank God, audio books come in. If print is king, audio is definitely the queen!
Picture it, or rather, picture me. Splayed comfy cosy in my beloved armchair, headphones snugly in place, listening to someone reading a book to me in a gentle, melodic voice beside my ear. Eyes closed, hands free or holding a warm cup of cocoa (or insert own fave bev here if you wish), and just being completely absorbed in the narration. Like a kid in nursery listening to his teacher reading aloud from an Aesop’s fable book.
Yep, it’s literally the sweetest of sweet spots! Bonus if the narrator’s voice lulls you like a lullaby into a deep, peaceful sleep! Or, if you prefer, keeping you company on those long morning runs by the sea.
Now how about we bring the “king and queen” of reading together?!
A royal marriage made in heaven!
Recently I reviewed a film called “The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society.” What I didn’t say however was that after that, I borrowed both the print and the audio book versions of it from my local library.
And boy was I blown away by the experience!
While most audiobooks are narrated by just one voice, this one had five! You see, the original print book was written as a series of letters that went back and forth between characters in the story. So to make it more convincing (since there are both male and female characters, with vastly differing ages and accents), the audio book had to employ more than one voice for the narration.
Now I’ve been on either print or audio books for some years now, but rarely both simultaneously. Sight reading is always faster so unless I need an eye break, I’ll usually defer to print.
However, with this novel, I found the experience was about as close to live theatre in this pandemic as I could get! As I flick the pages of the book from one letter narrated by one voice to another letter by a different voice, I felt transported to the very room where the story’s players were articulating their writings.
All the while with the added advantage of having those ‘letters’ in my hands to keep me focused. Far better than listening to my own voice reading aloud and faking accents.
You gotta try it!
About the same time as Guernsey, I also stumbled upon other audiobooks where the narrator also happened to be the author.
Now when it’s someone famous like, say Obama (A Promised Land) or more recently ’80s star brat-packer Andrew McCarthy and his 2021 biopic “brat: an ’80s story“, it feels like I’m a fly-on-the-wall at a celebrity interview led by Oprah Winfrey or CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
Take it from me, this hybrid reading experience takes you to a whole new level of enjoyment that’s going to keep you coming back for more.
So go ahead if you’ve yet to; give it a try.
Then come back here and comment below to share your experience with me ok?
Love to hear from you! *grin*.