Update June 2018: Since writing this blog post, I went back to buying eBooks for the convenience, but I still can't stand the page turn blink of my Kindle. Are there any non-annoying e-paper readers out there, dear reader? Let me know!
A while ago, I completely stopped buying eBooks. It has to do with me trying to slowly but surely move towards more mindful approach to living and to buying and owning things. No matter how weird and conservative it might sound, it makes sense. Let me explain why.
Real Books Don’t Need Airplane Mode
I used to read eBooks on my phone and my tablet a lot, but I got distracted by notifications a lot. By now I’m pretty sure we all agree that multitasking is bad for you and makes your brain into a mush, and that just the presence of your smartphone nearby can lower your brain’s processing power. I found that even with airplane mode on on my tablet or my phone, I still kept looking at other things once I got tired of reading — and I got tired of reading pretty quickly, since reading non-fiction books can get pretty boring. On the other hand, once I switched away from reading the book, I felt this gnawing guilt of wasting my time on random stuff while I was supposed to be reading. Reading can be boring, yes, but boredom is great for creativity and you have to be bored, because science. Therefore, I recommend to develop a habit of leaving all your devices in other room, bringing a book to a dedicated reading spot and reading through as much as you feel like. Then, simply reflect on what you read and get back to whatever you were doing. In a true Kaizen way, I started by reading a couple of pages a day and ended up reading whole chapters.
Real Books Take Up Space (And That’s A Good Thing)
In the digital world, we have pretty much unlimited access to space. With 32-, 64- or 128GB of memory on your phone, and the file size of average eBook being less than a megabyte, your phone can literally store thousands of books. This is amazing, yes, but if you’re a compulsive buyer, you end up buying a bunch of eBooks you never read, because you can’t see them physically manifest in the space. I decided I need to stop that and I started buying real books — because when I accumulate too many of them, I’ll see piles and piles of them everywhere, forcing me to do something about it. By leaving a physical book on my night stand, I also remember to read it. It serves as a reminder of a book that I have and that I wanted to read enough to pay money to obtain it.
Real Books Are A Work of Art
Let’s be honest — I’m yet to see and incredible eBook, while a lot of printed books are a work of art and can be cherished as such. There’s something about print that doesn’t quite convert well into digital format, especially if the book is heavily illustrated. I like to surround myself with beautiful things and printed books can definitely be beautiful.
Libraries are Goldmines
You know what we’re missing for eBooks, too? Libraries. You know, those places where they have a lot of books and you can either sit down and flip through the book or pay a tiny little annual fee and be allowed to take the book home and read them. Not sure how that works in other countries, but in Germany the library fees are ridiculously low. Unlimited amounts of books for a small annual fee—sounds like a good deal, right? Way easier and way more cost-effective than paying for every book, or even paying a monthly fee for some unlimited version of your Kindle store.
Real Books Can Be Shared
It’s entirely possible I’m doing eBooks wrong, but I also found that once I’m done with a book and I feel really inspired by it, I’ll borrow or give it away to someone I care about. This is not the case with the eBook — sure, I can give out a link for people to buy the book, but I can’t just kind-heartedly gift an eBook to a friend easily. In the real book world there are no formats to worry about, you simply hand someone a piece of paper. On top of that, you can’t even leave a book to a random person on a park bench, hoping they will pick it up and get inspired by it just like you did.
Carbon-based Recommendation Engines
You know that Amazon algorithm that tells you what people bought based on what you’re looking at? It’s not new, we’ve had that for years. It’s called “staff at a book store”. This is also why I am slowly stopping ordering my real books from Amazon and I’m looking for a local bookstore that I will buy things from all the time. There’s a lot of great bookstores in Berlin and—just like with Amazon, but with more human touch—the staff gets to know you, remember you and understand your tastes, so if you happen to wander in randomly without a clue what to read, the bookstore clerk will probably have something you’ll like. Sure, it’s way more prone to error than having an algorithm do it, but just remember that Amazon algorithm tells you to buy more refrigerators once you acquired a refrigerator. There’s nothing more sad than a lonely refrigerator right? Refrigerators evolved to be pack animals, every child knows that. Pretty sure they teach that in schools by now.
In summary, I hope this post explained why I am rediscovering my love for printed books and slowly replacing my eBook library with physical things. In a true minimalist fashion though (I’m trying to be really mindful about things I own, remember?) I will be giving away all the books I already read on Twitter.