Reading SF: Books vs Ebooks

For many years, I never really considered ebooks as “real” books, at least not in the same way that a physical hardback or paperback is a “real” book. There’s nothing solid, physical, to hold in your hand and browse through, to smell, and to put on the bookshelves and admire. I will ALWAYS prefer a real, physical book to any kind of electronic format. That’s the hardcore book collector side of me showing his face. But, as a mere reader, as opposed to a book collector, things have changed drastically for me in recent years.

For quite a few years now, I’ve been reading books in electronic format on my computer, in PDF, epub, mobi, doc, rtf, raw txt, and pretty much any other format that I can find, and for a quick, dirty read, these days I tend to prefer reading a story or book on my computer or e-reader. Things have changed to such an extent over the past ten years or so that I probably read more now in electronic format on my computer screen than I do from physical books. And, back in 2012, I bought myself an Amazon Kindle e-reader (3rd gen), and since then, I’ve been reading more and more SF in electronic format. The addition of a 10.1 inch Android tablet a couple of years ago has only added to the electronic reading experience, as I have it stocked up with books and both a Kindle and Epub reader to read them.

So I spend a lot more time actually reading books on my computer and my Kindle and Android tablets than I used to. The computer is on virtually from when I wake up until I go to sleep, and I can take my Kindle anywhere with me when I leave the house, with the hundreds of great SF books that I have loaded on it giving me virtually unlimited choice of reading material during those times when I’m bored or have time to kill on journeys or when visiting family.

There is also a weird psychological or habitual element to it all. Over the years, I’ve simply become used to reading more and more from computer or tablet screens and less and less from books. In many ways, I actually now find it easier to read on a Kindle or computer monitor than I do reading from a book. I guess I’m a living example of that demographic who spend most of their time staring at and reading from screens, and eventually find that they’ve changed so much on a psychological level that reading from a paper book is no longer the normal way to do it any more. It’s harder to concentrate on reading from a book for long periods without ignoring the addictive urge to get back to the computer screen.

I actually find it quite difficult now to read large amounts from a physical book, particularly fiction, without becoming restless, losing concentration, and finally putting the book down to go off and do something else. I used to NEVER be like that – a herd of wild horses couldn’t have dragged the old me away from a good book. Nowadays, I actually PREFER reading from a screen for prolonged periods vs reading from a book. This is hilariously ironic, coming from a guy who used to be an obsessive, non-stop reader of “real” books of all kinds, including novels, short story collections and anthologies.

I still buy lots and lots of books, but now primarily as a book collector. I read most fiction these days in electronic format. It seems that I’ve been split into two personas – the obsessive book collector, who will always prefer “real”, physical books, and the reader, who likes a quick, dirty read on his computer or Kindle. It’s much easier to carry hundreds of books around on a Kindle, and it certainly is a huge space-saver, not having to clutter up the house with yet more paperbacks (I’ve long ago run out of space, and my home is already totally cluttered up with paperbacks), and the Kindle certainly seems to have replaced the mass market paperback for me, leaving the buying of physical, print books mostly in hardback or trade paperback for more collectible books or my favourite authors.

Reading ebooks has also expanded my reading scope in many ways, not only with classic SF, but with modern and new authors that I would never have tried out in traditional book format. I also tend to buy the ebooks of authors that I like to read, for reading purposes, and then go and buy the hardback as a collectible as well, to put it on my bookshelves and admire it. Since I bought my Kindle four years ago, I’ve also been buying lots of SF at bargain basement prices, including not only stuff from new authors but also huge numbers of cheap Kindle author collections and anthologies of vintage and classic SF.

So now I reckon that it’s long past time that I start listing and recommending a few of these ebooks on this blog, in addition to the print books I’ve been collecting. And rightfully so, too, as they make up a huge percentage of my SF reading material these days.

In my next post, I’ll be taking a first look at a series of classic SF anthologies called The Golden Age of Science Fiction, which has been running for at least fifteen volumes (so far). Beginning with Vol. I and working my way through to Vol. XV, that should keep me going for quite a few posts.

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