I’ll admit to being a book lover (I won’t admit to taking a bag of books on my honeymoon though 😉 ) I love owning them, I love reading them and I love the burgeoning collection I have in my floor to ceiling home library. I secretly yearn for a sunken lounge room resplendent with chesterfields and a corner of full wall glass allowing the natural light to flood my library while I invest into the genius of others. The quote attributed to Plato makes perfect sense to me “Books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”
Holding, feeling, and smelling a physical book does something that demands my attention, invites me to adopt the posture of a learner, and assume the attitude of a student. It alerts me to the temptation of likes, clicks and scrolling, and corrals me to avoid that. Since the introduction and acceptance of ebooks, the demand and positioning of the printed book have worn well. In fact, whilst it appears strategically incongruous to publish without the various electronic and audible formats, there seems to be no slowing in the appetite for the physical books in our world today.
In preparation, I read over and over statistics for printed books versus ebook and what it all means. The best way to understand the summary of the last fifteen years would be the following:
- Printed book sales have been in decline for several years overall but far outweigh ebook sales in terms of revenue.
- Amazon and other discount online sellers of physical books appear to have encouraged physical book sales.
- Bricks and mortar booksellers have experienced a consistent and damaging decline.
- Ebook sales grew rapidly at first then slowed somewhat due to pricing, they appear less value at higher prices.
- Self-publishing is growing noticeably, primarily due to the accessibility of platforms to do so.
- Both markets, digital and physical are here to stay and are serving quite distinct purposes.
What I’ve noticed however is while my ebook library is growing at a rapid rate I find I utilise that for two main reasons, travel and research. Travel because it allows me to leave my case of books at home 🙂 and research because it allows me to access the necessary resource immediately, from the comfort and expedience of my desk. I often have a physical copy and a digital copy and resemble the desire for a sensory rich experience in the physical book, and the more utilitarian and pragmatic approach of an ebook.
A study written up by Ellen Duffer and published on Forbes speaks specifically to the way the two experiences FEEL for the individual. The article says “The study found that research participants described being more emotionally attached to physical books, and said they use physical books to establish a sense of self and belonging.” Whilst also acknowledging the benefit of the ebook in saying “But, at the end of the day, e-books have some key advantages: the ability to change text size, and the ability to carry many at once, giving readers access to all reading options at all times.”
In simple terms, the three big reasons I choose physical books are because:
- It invites me to be present for the experience.
- It disciplines my mind and body to be engaged in the process, and
- It asks me to take ownership of what I give and get from the process.
The actual experience navigates me through the why which invites me to lean in, and from which I derive a benefit. The more I read a physical book the more I unconsciously enjoy the benefits listed below.
The why is here:
When I consider my reading through the three filters of being present, being engaged and taking ownership I’ve chosen to limit my intake to a handful of books at a time. To stop several times a week and read before bed for 30 minutes and take specific, but limited in number, physical books with me when I travel. Getting more into the book itself and more out of the hard work already done by the authors and publishers.
Your world is richer, your mind better filled and your thinking more advanced when you read. Like George RR Martin said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before they die, the person who never reads lives only one.”
Enjoy your next book.
This is for leaders. I am for leaders.