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Do you guys miss real books? (2014) (reddit.com)
38 points by wslh 21 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 81 comments

I thought there would be more "yes" to be honest.

I love physical books, I like how they look laying around as a reminder to read them and I like how they disconnect me from technology.

Tried e-readers but I can never stick to them.

If I am doing dry reading, I put my computer somewhere near by for dictionary etc

And I can move around physical books much more easily and it still feels more natural.

The thread has an incredible selection bias - why would anyone who prefers paper books be browsing the /r/kindle subreddit?

Why would you expect more people to miss books? Books didn't go anywhere. Anyone who wants them can easily buy them or borrow them.

You know what I miss? Dead tree user manuals that used to come with hardware and software. That's something that has gone the way of the Dodo, unlike most other books. Luckily I can still buy printed manuals from the FSF.

There's a pattern where people go along with technology and progress because it's the thing to do, rather than by making a conscious decision. We're constantly sold new ways of doing things by getting bombarded with messaging about their strengths. We have to figure out their weaknesses on our own and they creep up on us more quietly. There's no industry shouting at us about the pros of physical books the way Amazon does about the Kindle.

So it's not hard to believe that there are people who switched to e-books by default and later could realize they miss real books.

With print-on-demand you can make a physical book out of any manual.

I just miss manuals, dead tree or otherwise. Where’s the manual for my iPhone? It’s just a vast unordered, sprawling, inconsistent, incomplete subsection of apple.com.

What I miss are schematics and parts lists. Of course, that would be virtually impossible with today's electronics, short of a bunch of PDF documents or something. Even then, they would almost be worthless.

But...back in the 1980s, just about any electronic device you bought (especially if you bought it from Radio Shack), the manual would have a schematic in the back, plus a list of parts (and in the case of RS - the parts list would usually have part numbers you could pick up off-the-shelf at the store!).

I miss that.

There's too many black-box chips on a typical product to make any sort of schematic meaningful.

There used to be full wiring diagrams for cars in manuals, but imagine that now where your car has 200 separate computerized systems, each with their own intricate circuits.

That’s the official way to get Intel manuals in print now. Not the same quality as the old ones - but I do like having my complete set ont he shelf.

I definitely prefer real books when reading technical documentation. However, when I'm at work, as long as I'm staring at a computer screen, nobody bothers me. The minute I start looking at a printed book, somebody with some (real or imagined) authority comes along and says, "watcha readin', commandlinefan? Why are you reading a book? Not enough real work to keep you busy? Why are you reading about Scala, why don't you ask Srinivas, he knows Scala? 'cause you should know by now that nothing matters except the deadlines, just work without understanding what you're doing or looking for optimal ways of implementing things because if we miss those deadlines it doesn't make any difference whatsoever but it's the only fucking thing we keep track of and the only fucking thing we measure performance based off of", so I settle for the far inferior freely available online documentation or the eye-straining PDF scans I can find.

I was surprised about this too. I've recently switched back to buying hardcovers of older books on ebay that I know I'll re-read (library for everything else). In my opinion, a hardcover book is easier to read both in terms of hold and in terms of eye strain.

Kindle backlighting is far too pure-white/blue for me to use at night when it would be most useful and the text resolution on the paperwhite I have (can't remember what generation) is nowhere near print quality. I am still sad that physical paging buttons were removed as well.

A kindle with adjustable color temperature would be a game-changer for me.

It also bugs me that you can't really trade-in a digital copy, and the prices for a digital book are rarely significantly less than a physical book

I know one of the Kobo e-readers has adjustable colour temperature.

> I thought there would be more "yes" to be honest.

Well, the question is asked in r/kindle. Ofc they are kindle fans; Otherwise they wouldn't have been there at first.

I like books better than any screened material. BUT nowadays I have found extreme comfort in audio books, kindle (Amazon Fire - rooted), and Scrivener on my PC (so I can keep notes)(pause the audio, email myself some thoughts and then copy & paste them on my Scrivener).

I got rid of (gave away) about 200 books. I haven't felt better 'minimizing' in my life. Now other people can get value from them, and I don't feel the obligation to read them again.

I haven't used an e-reader in many years but I remember it being pretty clunky (kinda like a flip-phone interface). It seems like modern devices ought to have have worked out most of the kinks by now. I should try one out.

I'm in this camp. I much prefer paper books, for much the same reasons.


Oh, you polled all their ages?

No, I know Reddit's demographics in general, plus how few younger people read books regularly in the US even in the 90s and 80s, never mind in 2014.


Any other passive-aggressive question?

> Most of those responding aren't old enough to have experience of pre-web real books... [flagged]

You aren't old enough to have experienced the pre-printing-press real books. Nowadays they just print everything that comes to their filthy minds, regardless of the content or even position of the author in our society. Just a machine printing away inked paper. Oh, how I miss the good old days when you could feel the woodblock pressure immortalized against the pulp, that subtle off-white coloring; the tasteful thickness of it.

>You aren't old enough to have experienced the pre-printing-press real books

That's true. Not sure how it's a counter-argument though.

Pre-printing press books were great as well, and even more important (regarding historical importance, and in terms of the price they'd fetch at an auction today) than printing-press books.

And it would also be true that having no direct experience of them, I'd be not very qualified to compare them to the printing-press books. Which is my point exactly.


That's not what this website is for and continuing to do so will get your account banned.


Ugh, you're actually right. Sorry for being a jerk to someone who just wanted to share his ideas.

Two additional thoughts:

1. These discussions are often framed as digital vs physical books and the reality is more "books vs all other forms of entertainment".

Kindle, etc. really set up books to compete with Netflix and Gamepass in the "It's 9 pm on a Wednesday what should I do to entertain myself for a few hours before I fall asleep?" category of entertainment. Which I think is fantastic.

2. Given cost and printing constraints there are lots of obvious and non-obvious forces at play that constrain authorial expression. Case in point: novellas are more or less non-existent in printed form as printing costs don't make sense for a "book" in the 50-100 page range, but they're starting a real revival on Kindle where it's entirely possible to charge a $1 for a shorter work.

Mixed emotions about them.

* hauling books around at college damaged my back * classic Microsoft texts like ASP v1.0 and SQL Server v1.0 make great monitor height boosters * waiting for a Commodore 64 book to be delivered at the local library in the 80s taught me extreme patience * you can’t flick through an ebook quit like a real book * one of the favorite pastimes was the personal collection of books you inherit when you leave your old job * a shelf full of obscure titles makes you look impressive to passers by

I don't use e-readers much myself, but I do have a Kobo e-reader (Toronto-based company bought by Rakuten a few years ago), and I was surprised to see how effective the rapid page turn feature they added is. Pressing and holding along the edge of the screen quickly flips through the pages at a speed where you can just catch the gist of the page.

For me it depends on the book - usually if its a novel, the kind I would used to buy in paperback, I get the kindle version. Its much more convenient to read the kindle in different places without having to decide beforehand which book you're going to bring. Also, if I just have my phone, its a good alternative to the other things you do on your phone.

The hardware kindle is excellent for travel since I can bring the whole library with me. If I'm going on a trip I'll buy a book or two to keep me occupied, and all I have to worry about is the device itself.

There are also a number of public-domain classics that are either free or insanely cheap on kindle, like Zane Grey or Shakespeare, so for those its like why not?

Having a large collection of print books also implies you have stable home environment or some place to keep them. For readers who are either transient or nomadic, then kindle has a lot of obvious advantages.

For the kind of book I would buy in "hardcover" I still go paper. These include specific favorites, art books, graphic novels, coffee table books. Many books quite simply do much better in print media, especially ones that are highly visual.

There is also much to be said for browsing old boutique bookstores, since they contain a lot of stuff that wouldn't be on Kindle at all, and have a lot of deals.

The main thing I miss in physical books is the ability to flip around in them, so while it's technically possible to do this in a kindle, any time there is like a map or something similar in a book I end up just finding a picture of it online and saving it on my phone.

This is also why I tend to prefer physical copies of technical books and RPG manuals.

I think there's something about the spatial dimension of how information is arranged in a real book that really helps me learn and retain concepts and information.

I'm not sure I agree with the reasoning, but I agree with your result.

I've had a kindle for about six months, and I've been reading a ton. I'm usually more of a 3-5 books/year type of guy, but I've gone through ten since getting the kindle. Problem is that I really haven't retained the content as well as I have been able to with tree books.

I prefer the convenience of ebook readers. But strangely the advent of e-readers, has, to my eyes increased the value of physical books, as a physical collectible items. So even though I do most of my reading on the eReader, I buy physical books, whenever I see a beautifully made one or one which is noteworthy any manner, and it gives me the same feeling that collectors of any physical artefact gets. Moreover physical books may become a rare prized commodity in the future, when only the most popular of works may continue to get physical prints, so for many books the time in which they can still be got as physical copies might be passing soon.

In a related matter, ebooks have made the concept of works going out-of-print largely obsolete.

Books as collectibles is an interesting development; you see the same happening in the music industry, where especially vinyl is making a comeback. I've bought a number of vinyl albums, despite not having a vinyl player. It's music that I pirated 10-15 odd years ago; I still wouldn't buy CDs (lack of CD players, inconvenient compared to digital), but buying vinyl as a collectible is definitely a thing. Also because they're a lot more tangible, have a nice exploded view of album art, and often have some neat collectable features like multiple disks, fancy colors, etc.

> In a related matter, ebooks have made the concept of works going out-of-print largely obsolete.

I'd argue the opposite:

With DRM and other reasons/issues - it's made the possibility of a book going out of print - forever and permanently - a very real and possible thing.

For instance, you could purchase an ebook with DRM from the publisher and/or author where - should the author or publisher change their mind - they could pull the "publishing" of it (no longer available to purchase), and revoke the license of the work from all people who purchased it, and effectively remove it from your collection!

Imagine if you owned a physical book and then one day - p00f - it disappears off your shelf! Off of everyone's shelf - plus all library shelves!

That could easily happen with an ebook; it could never happen with a physical book. With a physical book, while it might disappear from publication and sale, it could still be purchased secondhand, and possibly sometime in the future scanned or otherwise re-published (see the number of out-of-copyright and out-of-print books on archive.org and Project Gutenberg). With an ebook, this could be made impossible.

We already see this with music - I know I've had tracks on spotify "disappear" off of playlists; I'm sure entire albums or playlists could also "disappear". I haven't seen it yet, but I am certain it is possible.

Or what about the efforts of Nintendo which has largely made it virtually impossible to get ROM images of "out of print" video games for emulation or backup purposes? Not only of Nintendo titles, but other consoles as well...

I'm not saying that Nintendo doesn't have the right to do this, but rather to make the point that if they can do it - then so can ebook publishers, effectively making books disappear, never to be found again.

Book burning couldn't get any easier than with digital books.

I find myself gravitating back towards physical books after years of almost exclusively reading on my phone or eink device. Something about how the you can feel your progress as the thickness of pages in each hand. It's totally irrational, the convenience of an electronic version ought to outweigh that, but... I choose to read a physical version more often than not.

For reference books, where random access is a typical use case, I find a combination of a physical version and a searchable PDF file on a computer is most useful. Mobile devices, especially eink ones, are somewhat unsuited for that kind of reading.

I prefer my kindle because it is light and doesn't require a light like a regular book. I would never travel without it. I don't find books more immersive, if the writing is good I'll get lost in the book even if it was on my laptop or phone.

My main issue with ebooks is the DRM around them.

The thing I miss most is the physicality not of reading the book, but of browsing a collection of books. When I'm considering whether to start a new book or re-read a treasured one a bookshelf is perfect for this -- I can look at spines and instantly regain context. I can see hundreds of books in a matter of seconds without having to flip pages. I can put candidates aside and prune them down.

Similarly when I'm browsing books -- I still find my self going to Barnes & Noble as a lookie-loo; just browsing around for interesting books, because the experience is so much better than anything you can get on an electronic device.

I've thought before that it would be neat to have an "Amazon e-book Store" where there was a single copy of each book, with a QR code that contained an affiliate link to buy the book on Amazon. You'd get all the benefits of physical browsing there; you can take down a book, page through it, look at other books by the same author, have staff recommendations, etc. The operational cost would be small because you wouldn't have to carry multiple copies of the same book, and you wouldn't have to keep any non-display inventory or have to deal with the retail aspect at all.

I should answer yes, that I miss real books.

My first job was as a library page. It was natural; I had been reading thick paperbacks since I was 8 or so. In Pennsylvania I needed to check those out under my parents' library cards, because my juvenile library card wouldn't allow me access to them. At age 12, the library finally stopped putting them under my parents card and just granted me an 'Adult' card at an early age. When an opportunity came up to shelf books for $4/hr, I jumped at it.

I was and am a voracious reader. Before ebooks, packing for a vacation sometimes meant I needed an extra bag just for books. It wasn't possible for me to throw a couple changes of clothes in a backpack and head off for the weekend; I needed an actual suitcase because I'd need space to tuck at least a couple of paperbacks.

But I don't miss real books. It took me a few years to get used to reading on an iPad. I can finally travel light, even if I'm spending a chunk of an entire weekend in airports. I don't need to choose between bringing one technical book and three paperbacks. It's so much more convenient.

I used to love physical books and the feel and the smell and the looks. Until the day I moved overseas and couldn't take my collection with me. I left them stored in boxes at friend's house and one day, during a storm, his house was flooded and my books were destroyed like most of his stuff.

Today I love my Kindle and I like the peace of mind that my books are safe.

> Today I love my Kindle and I like the peace of mind that my books are safe.

Until AMZN decides to take them away from you.

At least for the physical books, it took a major weather event to destroy them. For virtual goods, cloud-hosted content, and permissionware, your ability to access the works can be taken away at any time for any or no reason, temporarily or permanently.

Jailbroke my kindle to prevent updates from Amazon permanently. I download epubs (from apple and libgen) and wirelessly transfer them to my paperwhite.

It's always a good idea to backup data that is in your possession.

Hard to do with Kindle books

True, but in this case that requires stripping the DRM too.

Guess the risks are the same in the end.

I too love physical books. I love holding them, collecting them, reading them, and having them visible in my home, because that also helps discovery by my visitors; who hasn't taken a look at someone else's book case and thought: "That book looks interesting"? You lose that if the books only exist on a harddisk or memory card.

But recently I've been digging through some reading material which partly exists in PDF, and partly in big physical books, and I'm going way faster through the PDFs than through the physical books, because I read the PDFs on a tablet that I always have with me, and the physical book is big enough that I really need to sit down explicitly to read it.

This is the biggest thing for me. I can cary my library with me all the time and when I have to wait longer than planned I can read something meaningful instead of just playing a stupid phone game or reading internet banality. I mean there's times when I don't want to think and those things are great. But now I have an option.

As much as I love my (physical!) library, I don't feel the need to carry all of it around with me. Just the book I'm reading at the moment suffices — perhaps a completely different second book (e.g., non-fiction if the other one is fiction) if I expect a long trip.

When I go to the barber I know that there is a good chance that there will be a queue, so I grab a book. I got through six chapters of Foucault's Pendulum (Umberto Eco, 1986) that way last week.

I don't miss books because they're still a big part of my life. I do have a Kindle, but I don't use it. I still collect and read paper books. I just prefer the reading experience.

ditto, reading physical books is easier on my eyes, requires no batteries or chargers (other than coffee), and the good ones can be easily passed on to book-loving friends and family.

Something I don't see mentioned: I like the aesthetics of shelves of books. I enjoy perusing the shelves when I'm ready to start a new one. I also enjoy shopping used book sales. Here in San Diego, there's a huge monthly used book sale at the North Park library. Every book is $1 and under and it's actually good stuff. I'll probably only read 10% of the books I pick up, but that's okay considering the low cost of each.

Why I like books:

- I prefer reading on paper

- Not having to think about charging and battery life (book light excluded)

- Used books can often be had cheap or free

- No proprietary lock-in bullshit

Why I do not like books:

- Turning pages is cumbersome

- No way to search the text

- No way to alter the font size

- No way to look something up in a book you read N years ago unless you're home with your bookshelf

- Harder to find a comfortable reading position

- Books are heavy and take up a lot of space

Despite all that, I still mainly read paper books.

That's why I think it comes down to what your using the book for. If it's a resource for something, then digital just makes sense. If it's for blowing your mind with a story about Flagg and the super-flu killing almost everyone on Earth, then it's almost a trophy or monument to your experience. Especially a book like The Stand.

To me, it's the difference between the 100k photos I have sitting in the cloud and the photo albums my mother has sitting on her shelf, which she knows by heart. Or having access to pretty much ALL the music on the play store, or holding a new album by Jack White and seeing the artwork off a screen. Maybe it's just a luxury now to have physical items, or maybe I'm just getting old and nostalgic, I don't know.

Ebook readers generally last long time, may be even a month or more on a single charge.

Many ebooks are in the public domain and can be had free of cost from Gutenberg and other sources, which are free from any kind of lock-in or DRM. Especially for English, eReaders have opened up almost the entirety of the corpus of authors like Trollope, Scott, Thackeray, Meredith, Conrad, Henry James, George Eliot, Stevenson, Bennett, Galsworthy, Sinclair Lewis etc, many of which works are no longer easily obtained as physical copies.

Mostly agreed, some of my addenda:

Physical better:

- Persistent subconscious knowledge of where I am in the book (weight in each hand).

- Much easier to flip back multiple pages to re-read a section and flip to where you were.

- Resilient to collapses of information/power infrastructure.

Digital better:

- Traveling with many books is impractical

- Built-in dictionary and wikipedia search

- Resilient to fire and water damage

Not sure I understand the last point about fire and water damage, but the rest are exactly my thoughts.

Not the parent, but at least for me my ebook collection is far less likely to be irretrievably lost than my physical library. I keep important data like photos, documents, and books backed up in multiple places, including off-site. So if my house burns down or floods, my physical library will be irretrievably destroyed, while I will still be able to access my digital library.

I went through few Kindles over the years, but ended up going back to real books. Kindle UI is sluggish, it is pain to navigate to bookmark, can't jump between chapters if I want to. Touchscreen is a disaster - press and then think "did I press hard enough or it is just slow?".

Might not be a popular opinion but I like being able to access any book from my phone/computer. Mainly when traveling, it feels like you have an endless library. You can easily purchase new books you're really interested in.

Though, I do understand how some bookstore may suffer. I actually believe we may see more of them. They could benefit from the co-working space / coffee shops culture that's growing.

On the top of that, I would say the ease of purchasing a book today has likely helped a lot of authors increase their revenue or general awareness.

I have a large screen phone and decent eyesight, so I'm perfectly happy to read books using the Kindle app.

Books are lovely physical objects, but the convenience of carrying a library with me at all times far outweighs any sentimentality I have.

The main thing I miss with the physical books, as opposed to e-books, is the ease of giving them as presents. Right now, when I want to give a book I just buy a physical copy; but it's been a long time since I bought one for personal consumption.

The second way physical books are still superior is that the non-text-based ones (i.e. anything with plenty of illustrations, especially in colour) still look much better than their electronic counterparts (and with that type of books, the appearance matters at least as much as the content).

Miss ?

Why miss ? Millions of them are still sold every month.

Besides, it's not an XOR proposition.

I had 3 e-readers, as they are handy in a trip. However, it takes less effort for me to read from a real book, and I also read faster.

My eyes struggle to focus for too long on a real book, my kindle on the other hand I can read for hours on end.

As a compromise, I will buy books from foliosociety.com as gifts for others instead.

I like them for the smell and tactile sensation of it, and after spending hours upon hours in front of a monitor essentially every day, it's nice to unplug for a little while before bed.

I do have to say brand new books are pretty expensive though, but used books can be gotten for very cheap (and I actually like that older book smell). Or alternatively, free at the library if you have the time/inclination to go.

I live in a tiny flat (normal for the UK). I only keep hard copies of special books such as coffee table books and author-signed copies. I'll check whether the library has the book I want before purchasing a digital copy of it.

I ran into the first world problem of not being able to read a physical book in bed because my bedside lamp isn't bright enough, having always used my Kindle Paperwhite.

Depends on the kind of a book. Novels, easy read - definitely better in e-form. Anything complex - textbook, or science popularization or even rich fiction - makes me miss real print. Mainly due to the lack of easy navigation. It is a lot easier to go back and re-read fragments in the real book than it is in the e-book.

TL;DR; Working with the book is easy in printed form and pain in e-format.

Huh, interesting that our preferences are polar opposites despite being formed for the same reasons. I much prefer technical or 'hard' literature in electronic format due to ease of searching and bookmarking, since I will often need to refer back to previous sections or take notes. However, for something like fiction novels I far prefer paper books, since I don't often need to reference back for something like a SF novel, so I don't care that it's harder to find a specific section.

Might be a difference in reading style, but for something like a physical textbook it is normal for me to have 40-50 separate bookmarks, which I always found unmanageable.

I agree 100%.

Which is a shame, because the primary reason I like ebooks is because technical books are so much cheaper in electronic format. Likewise, I'd much prefer to read a paper electronically than kill trees, but (even if you reflow a pdf [grr!]) it is so hard to follow the text when it references a diagram or a code sample on another page, as I want to see two different things at once, and it is so easy to have two pages open in a book (or, more likely, one two-page spread open flat) and switch between them quickly.

One more thing I'm torn on: I really like reading on a dedicated reader; it has much less eyestrain, and doesn't come in with built-in distractions (like the internet being a click away, or notifications popping up). OTOH, the responsiveness, being able to zoom in and out, for example, on a tablet, is really nice.

If it's a book that's technical in any way, or one that I'll need to reference semi-regularly (say, a self-help book), I'll buy the print version. It's easier to mark up the sides with notes, add tabs to bookmark important points.

Flipping through marked-up books is faster than going through the "highlights" section of your ebook.

No, not at all, because I read both "real" books and on the Kindle. I have thousands of print books and keep buying more. I have the Kindle for books which are too expensive to buy in print format. And not all books are available on the Kindle - I thought this last one would be obvious, but apparently it's not.

I feel nostalgic about real books. I'm not sure that's exactly the same as missing real books. Having a book on my phone means that when I have time to myself I have the book I want to read. A real book would take effort to ensure I have it.

I use my ereader for entertainment and paper books for technical information.

I'm not really a book person though. I don't think owning a bunch of physical books makes me smarter and I don't particularly like the look of shelves upon shelves of books.

No, because I still buy almost all reading as physical books.

y, it's nice having a book on a phone or iPad or kindle, but it's not the same a flipping through a physical book, adding post it notes, marking notes in the book.

Probably miss physical books more for something you are studying rather than just reading a novel.

So if I'm learning something I'd rather have a physical book, for reading either one works.

I do like having books on shelves though, just the look of it and seeing what you have read, having books for reference.

At my house, they haven't left.

I tend to use Gutenberg for quoting passages, and I read most computer documentation on-line. Otherwise, I mostly use physical books.

No, as someone with pretty intense dyslexia, books and learning from them have been the bane of my existence. Text to speech has been a life saver.

Print book sales are going up, not down.

Unpopular opinion: using phone ereader because you can pick up and listen on way to commuting.

I guess I'm a dinosaur. I tried a Kindle once for about 15 minutes and have never used one again.

No. I read a ton and if it weren't for my phone then I wouldn't read fiction at all.

I don't miss them. They're still available. I buy them.

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