I have long marveled at what wonderful company other authors are, and what delightful people my readers are. Every reader I’ve met or interacted with on the topic of my books has been gracious and considerate, even when they are disappointed with a story, or informing me of a boo-boo spotted in the text.
This might be because my reading demographic (the whole historical romance reading demographic) skews older, and thus developed literary habits before the advent of “smart” phones or even computers. We know these devices are eroding our capacity for memory, focus, and analytical thinking–they make us dumber in other words–now it turns out they might also be making us meaner and more forgetful because they have changed the way we read.
In multiple studies of reading habits, the findings increasingly point to screen-reading as costing us the ability to absorb complex material (such as the deliberately convoluted referendum questions we find in the polling booth). The way we read now–scrollity-scroll-scroll-scroll–is also making us less empathetic (anybody lamented the loss of civility in public discourse lately?), and delivering a hit to our recall. Turns out that holding a physical book, turning real pages, and having a physical object that we associate with a specific story (rather than a device that holds untold quantities of data) makes remembering what we’ve read and even reacting to it easier.
On a device, we skim-read, not from left to right, but down first lines, from keyword to keyword, or link to link. The damage, in terms of lack of recall, comprehension, and empathy, shows up as early as age nine or ten, just as a tween begins to face the mounting challenges of peer groups and cyber communities.
I’m reminded of the Victorian’s approach to cigarettes, viewed as a healthful way for a man to relax at the end of his hard day. A huge industry rooted in all manner of labor evils depended on convincing that guy he was entitled to smoke and that smoking was good for him, even as he developed a chronic cough, his clothes began to permanently stink, and cravings became a nuisance. He was in fact, being sold an addiction that rotted his lungs, affected the air quality of everybody around him, and gave Jim Crow wings.
I make a lot of my income selling ebooks, so this question is not idle for me. I suspect the ebook fiction reader might have a different relationship with e-reading than the fifth-grader who’s bored with history class, but I’m concerned nonetheless. I continue to prefer print reading for my recreational reading, or when I’m trying to absorb substantial material. Maybe someday, we’ll read differently for different purposes, just as we printed newspapers on lightweight, easily disposed of paper, and wrote letters on beautiful stationery.
If I had to decide between losing my e-readership, or giving up print books, the choice would be hard. I do know though, that as of this week I am putting the blog on hiatus until later this fall, because I’ve come back from travel with a yen to sink into some great reading.
What about you? Have your reading habits changed with the advent of e-reading? Does e-reading represent a step forward for you or cause you some worry? To one commenter, I’ll send a copy of Tessa Dare’s The Governess Game (on sale TUESDAY!!!), which will surely be among the print books I’ll gobble up this week.
I resisted even getting an e-reader for a long time. Even now, given a choice, I prefer the physical book in my hands. But I have come to love my kindle. As an older person who is trying to downsize, it is wonderful to have a device that can hold so many books without taking up space. My reason for even getting one in the first place was because I was trying to find some romance books from back in the day that were no longer available except in that form.
Another big advantage is that I can touch on a word that I don’t know the meaning of and have the definition pop up. No need to stop my reading to look it up or write it down and look it up later. What’s funny is that sometimes when I am reading a physical book, I find myself tapping on a word and expecting the definition to pop up (smile).
Grace, I will miss your blog while you are on hiatus, but you need your down time too. God Bless and enjoy!
Readers also tell me that they read SO MUCH they get physically tired of holding a 400 page book. Then too, you can expand the type on an e-reader and always have it be well lit so less eyestrain or odd positions because that’s where the night light shines.
There are for sure advantages to e-reading, but downsides too. Big downsides, apparently.
It’s a lot easier to read wherever I am now with ebooks. While waiting in line somewhere, at lunch, at an office. I can move seamlessly fro reading at home to reading on the go, which I adore. It’s hard for me now when I get a physical book from the library and I have to wait until I get home to keep reading. I’m getting spoiled by 24/7 access with ebooks!
And Amazon and the other platforms really, really want you to BE spoiled. I’m ambivalent. Yes, I’d like to pay off this house before I die (I’ll have to live to about 138), but no, I don’t want royalties at the expense of civic discourse on difficult issues.
My reading habits have definitely changed since the e-reader came out. I was definitely an anti-kindle person until my husband and sons gave me one for Mother’s Day in 2011. At first, I thought I would never use it and then–BOOM!–I was hooked because of a trip to Colorado.
I would always lung about 3 to 4 books with me in my carry-on on this regular trip with Hubby. He would laugh and tell me he was relieved that my bookbag wouldn’t be weighed because there definitely would be an over weight charge. That year he suggested I bring the Kindle. I loaded it up with a selection of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens and added some Georgette Heyer because I hadn’t read any for a while. It made sense–one little ‘ol Kindle instead of 15 books!
I do buy print copies of things I really enjoy–your Heir and Virtuoso were the first ones I bought copies of after having read the Kindle version–but it has to be special for me to do that.
I will miss you Grace–enjoy reading and your down time!
I began reading Max last night on my Kindle and am delighted! Not to give anything away but THANK YOU for your Maura character. More reading tonight. 🙂
I prefer to read in print because it’s easier to go back to check on something (I have the type of memory that remembers about where things were on a page) and come back to where I am currently reading. However, like Mary T, I’m trying to downsize and ebooks don’t take up any physical space. I have 6.5 full-height (84 inches) bookshelves double-packed with paperbacks, since I have been collecting romance novels since the 1990s. There’s no more free wall space so I cannot buy another bookshelf. When I used to travel on business, I would frequently take a separate bag with nothing but books and it would have been so much more convenient to take just one Kindle instead. Also, we got my 80+-year-old mother a Kindle and it enables her to continue to read her favorite cozy mysteries since she can make the print as large as she wants.
I’m not concerned about my civil discourse since I grew up when children were taught to respect others, even if they didn’t agree, and using an ereader at this late age isn’t going to change that. But I agree that something has caused a severe deterioration in civility. In fact, it was so wonderful to see the late Senator’s McCain’s response to a questioner saying bad things about his political rival, Barack Obama, (and praising Obama in spite of their political differences) and very sad to contrast that to what our current president said during the campaign and continues to say about not only his actual rivals, but just about anybody who isn’t him.
I agree with all the comments so far; font size, brightness, availability, space… Cheap paper and ink make me sneeze. My mother always knew when I was reading comic books. The screens have been nice from that perspective.
Enjoy your hiatus.
I prefer MMP as they are small in size and not heavy. I seldom go anywhere without a book.
I don’t like touch electronics. My fingers haven’t perfected that skill. Right now my Kindle is a mess and I need to spend some time with Amazon on the phone.
It’s not as easy on a Kindle to refer to back pages for a sentence that turns out important to the plot.
If I LIKE the author, like Grace, I want a printed book. If I’m not so sure the book is a keeper and the ecopy is free or 99 cents I buy the ecopy.
I prefer reading paperbacks to ebooks. Sometimes an author only has a book available as an ebook. Also, an ebook may be cheaper, and paper isn’t used. I am taking a History class right now, so I print out my assignments, because I am better able to comprehend the material. I hate to think that paper is becoming a luxury item, but it may be true.
As you suggested, I’m an older reader. I access books through my Kindle as well as print. As my experience with the Kindle has grown, I’ve developed my own library style. For authors I love (you, Anna Campbell, Stephanie Laurens, Tessa Dare, MaryJo Putney), I order print whenever it’s offered (even when it delays my receiving the book). For authors new to me or whose books are chosen for the individual story rather than expectation based on knowing and trusting the writer, I’m likely to use the Kindle. Exceptions are when I discover a book by a favorite writer that’s no longer readily available in print or when I’m enjoying a print copy and have to travel – Kindle fills that gap adequately.
Yes, it definitely has. I find that I read differently with my ereader. I am distracted by having to tap or slide to turn a page (and how many times I have tapped in the wrong place and reduced the page instead of turning it!). I don’t have a sense of where I am in the book without looking down at the percentage showing on the bottom. I do read faster but I find that I am less likely to go back and reread a previous page when I might want to. It is more time consuming to do that. That, of course, points to the outside pressure of feeling the need to “finish” because there is the dreaded/loved stack of TBRs waiting.
I like the feel of a paper book better. I like seeing my favorite titles waiting for a reread on my shelf. I like to browse my physical TBR stack to find my next title, lured on by the cover or the blurb (I know, so shallow!). Yet my ereader serves its purpose with convenience, access to reprints of older titles in ebook format and the ease of carrying my library with me everywhere. So, I will continue to be a supporter of both means of reading. Thanks for asking.
I have to laugh at myself for commenting here, because I definitely do not want an actual book, so please DO NOT enter me in this contest (although I would love an ebook, instead!). I am 57 years old, and have always loved, LOVED, books. Bought some, borrowed some from friends or the library – just always had books in my life. The problems were, what to do with all these books, and even more so, how to afford the ones I wanted to buy? I’ve given away or donated every single one, and at times have regretted that decision when I’ve wanted to revisit a story. ENTER THE KINDLE! Loved that device, but had issues with recharging the battery at times (common issue), so switched to my iPad. Love at first read! I don’t use the scrolling feature, preferring to “flip” pages, love making the screen lighter or darker or a different color, changing the font size, being able to highlight words to get a definition, a translation, a location, or a pronunciation. I have over 400 books on it, but only permanently delete the disappointing ones from my account. I delete some from the device, but can easily download them again, since I own them. I always have my library with me, since I have the app on my iPhone, too. I am an ARC reviewer for quite a few authors, and can still pick out those mistakes as if they were on paper pages. Ebooks usually cost less than books, and KU, sales, and freebies just about rock my world. I don’t think I will ever go back to actual books. My only dilemma is, is it worse to have people lose jobs over the loss of book sales, or is it worse to chop down trees to make books? The thought does bother me!
I use my e reader a lot solely because it is more convenient. It stains my eyes though. I still prefer hard copy
This is funny, because this was discussed last night in my readers’ group, paper being better for true reading comprehension versus ebooks. I have a Kindle Fire and read my books with a black background and white letters. It is a real help with being very nearsighted and bonus, I can read in the dark. It also helps because I don’t have to turn pages, which can be difficult.
I’m an avid reader, I love been transported in my imagination wings thanks to the ability of another person to put her imaginary world into words, that is written words as you yourself do. Lately, due to the fact that books occupy so much space, physical space that is, I’ve been driven to choose the e-reading option. Where you have read “driven” I gladly would write “forced” because it would be more close to my feelings. So you see it’s only a matter of space (where to put so many books?!) and weight (I used to love having a book in my bag and taking it everywhere).
And what about looking at my bookshelf and instantly receiving the richness of all the experiences lived and felt through them…? another loss to the e-reading option.
Recently I was reading an e-reading novel and felt a definite pang of longing, physical longig, for having a physical book in my hands, the pleasure of feeling its weight, the paper smell, the textures… so when I’ve opened your blog this morning yours has been the warm call of a kindred spirit coming to have a cup of tea and some reading on the same page.
Well done, Grace. Your novels are a well of joy.
This is tough, because I work in a library, where we’re constantly re-imagining our purpose for our public and finding new ways to fill their needs beyond print material. The need for print survives, however, as does the value of reading print material encouraging both divergent and convergent thinking. I have to admit, personally, the convenience of having new books at my fingertips on my e-reader outweighs the inconvenience of having to set up my device with just the right color scheme and page-curl effect the feel closest to real print. The only time I check out a physical book from my library is if there is no e-copy or if the physical book wait list is shorter, and I only buy e-books anymore,that way, I never run out of room for more!
While one cannot deny the convenience of reading from a device, I still prefer to read physical books. Sure, I can immediately look up word definitions and historical references with one click, can read and eat lunch without the clumsiness of having to hold a book, can even read in dim light, but those things pale in comparison to the ritual of turning physical pages and unplugging from the stream of instant/constant information. To me, reading physical books is special in the same way getting a piece of mail that isn’t a bill is a joyous occasion. I don’t want to outlive the age of turning physical pages!
I have to mention, though, that I’ve just started reading My One True Duchess, and since I am reading it on my tablet, I was able to highlight a line that was so touching to me. It is the scene where Casriel sees Lady Canmore to her door after a trying evening at a ball and asks her if she is well. Bea replies, “The Dorset Dornings have such beautiful eyes. Perhaps your eyes are a remarkable color, but I like that you see with your heart.” I loved, loved, loved this bit of dialogue – loved the sentiment, loved the intimate moment it created between these two near-strangers. It made me sigh out loud, I’m not ashamed to admit. And because I was reading from my tablet, I could highlight it for future reference. I wouldn’t dare desecrate a physical book by turning down a page corner or (gasp) actually underlining text on a page.
We are a species riddled with quirks, we humans, are we not? 🙂
I’m closer to living in one room than I’d like to be so I’m getting prepared. All the books that are necessary to me are being purchased for my e-reader even if I own the paperback.
Yes, I would much rather have an actual book in my hands than an e-reader. I find my eyes getting tired quicker on the e-reader and I don’t like to carry it around with me. Can’t really say why. I’d just rather have that paperback book in my bag, or in my hands, for those long minutes waiting at the drive thru, doctor’s office, lunch time, and so on. I don’t have to worry about loosing battery charge, finding a place to plug in/ recharge, or dropping the doggone thing. The soft sound of a page turning over, as my hands and fingers embrace the story along with the book, make for a lovely few minutes or longer, depending on my circumstances.
On another note, I’d like to say that I get irritated with the modern hairstyles used by the cover models on historical novels, especially the men. Or when the color or length of hair of a hero, or heroine, mentioned specifically in the story, is nowhere to be found on the cover picture. It would be nice to have the fantasy reinforced by the picture on the cover, instead of looking like someone else not related to the story.
I absolutely love all your books and own every historical story you have published. I’ve written to you before about Beckman being my favorite hero, and he still stands on that pedestal. Although Ethan isn’t bad either. I actually have Darius with me as I type this note and am enjoying rereading his story. Thank you so very much for your stories and your writing style. Best wishes!
Good for you for taking some time off, I hope you have a relaxing and reading filled time.
I love having a physical book, and I think that will always be true (of course, being of a certain age, I am very rooted in books as objects, useful and beautiful). For a long time I resisted digital books but now I love to check out and read ebooks on vacation so that I don’t have to predict what I may want to read before I leave. Also, because I only buy books that I will reread, I use library ebooks to discover new authors that I am interested in but won’t commit the physical space to. I have a system set up to rid myself of the stacks and stacks of ARCs that I am always bringing home from my bookstore job, if I didn’t ruthlessly shed them I would drown under them. I love being surrounded by books, at home and at work, so maybe I am biased. But I keep some of my favorite books on my phone so that I always have them available, I do appreciate that convenience. So I suppose I vote for both even though I ‘d be out of a job if people stopped buying books.
I developed a sever dust allergy that has moved me from print books to an ereader. I don’t mind so much because 1. I can get new releases from my library faster. 2. We only have 5 bookshelves in the whole house for everything from photo albums to kids books. I have noticed my eyes have trouble refocusing after reading for several hours, which may be the ereader or may be I’m aging.
BUT my 15 year old only reads fiction in book form and never uses his ereader. He says he likes having something to hold. I find this book encouraging and frustrating (see bookselves above) because he refuses to get rid of anything he has enjoyed since he was 7.
What I find worrying is that his school district has proved every older student a chromebook and moved lots of their classroom books to ebooks (biology, math, etc)> There are good reasons to due this (storage, having the most up-to-date editions, weight of backpacks) but I still worry about not having physical books.
FYI- if by chance I win, give the books to someone else
I like my e-reader! As a retired librarian, I wasn’t sure I would, but over time, the advantages have become clearer! And that’s an intended pun related to the e-reader font and lighting capabilities – so much better than fading paperback print and lamps that are never right where you want them! I also like the weight and handling diiference. I am convinced my arthritic thumbs are the result of a lifetime of struggling to hold so many new paperbacks open. Paper-saving & space-saving too! Non-fiction reference and children’s illustrated books continue to be print-only preferences though. Any skipping from keyword to keyword just alerts me that I’m a bit bored and not liking the story as much as I had hoped I would.
I love your books. To answer your question about EReader’s I actually read more now than ever because I have a Nook. I had stopped reading, in part because my eyesight grew worse over the years and the font size of print books make reading difficult. Once I bought my Nook everything changed because, hooray, now I can choose a font size that’s easy to read. Please don’t give up on ebooks!
I prefer my e-reader for fiction. I can make the print larger & click on words I don’t know for a definition. Also, I borrow from the library so I can take out multiple books without leaving the house. I recently had a Total Hip Replacement and mobility was an issue for a while. I have an old school kindle. I like it because it is not backlit so computer, or blue light, eye strain is eliminated.
However, if I want to buy a book I like having a physical copy.
When it comes to non-fiction it’s easier for me to read a physical book because I want to go back and forth to things referred to.
Thank you for your work!
I read prodigious amounts every week and I have found over the past few years (I’m over 65 now), that the ereader is becoming a preferred method, primarily because I can change the font size when my eyes are tired. I work on a computer much of the day and by evening my eyes sometimes don’t like a print book. I still buy a lot of paper books, but in comparing them to older books in my collection, some of the new ones have smaller fonts than they used to and the print quality also is more uneven. I have often wondered if the publishing industry isn’t leaning heavily toward ebooks, especially for the less expensive mass market. Additionally, despite having to keep the eyes peeled for an electric plug, my iPad allows me to carry a massive amount of reading material as I travel. So….
I’m glad to know what you have said. I have readers (2) to store some of the free books I have collected but I read real books as much as possible. The cost of even paperbacks has risen so high that ebooks (in the multiples that I read) are far less costly. My husband and I are retired and our
income comfortable for our needs but not always our wants. We have a library near by that we have
come to depend on. I am sure most families have similar issues. Perhaps there is a reasonable solution for child readers–I only wish I knew what it was.
Oh, boy, this blog hit home! I have become an ereader for all the positive reasons – instant access (especially to books such as yours which I never see on the shelves of bookstores here in Australia), variable print size and backlighting, space saving, audio versions, built in dictionary etc etc. I’m distressed, however, to notice the changes in my reading habits. This was brought home recently when I joined a book club where the choices were often older books that required perseverance through lengthy description. I had become an impatient reader! Give me plot development now and give it to me quickly and clearly because I don’t have time to “waste”. That “wasting time” would once have been wallowing in the beauty of the words. And yes, I process the information differently. I believe that instead of my brain registering that it should “file” this bit, it just sends it to the cerebral attic because it knows it will “be there somewhere”. Hmmmmmm!
As an aside, I did find myself “pressing” on a word on the page of a magazine in a doctor’s waiting room the other day – expecting a definition. More “hmmmm”!
An interesting question! I have found that my reading addiction (and yes, that’s what it is) has been fueled by ereaders. I have a kindle, and the app is on my phone and ipad. Thus, I am never without a book, and it’s as close as my pocket. I Love that! I can carry my library with me when we travel, I can read in low light without disturbing my husband, I can change the font size if need be, and I can look up meanings on the fly simply by holding down a word. I marvel at all this – it’s like Star Trek come to life! I haven’t noticed a decrease in my ability to absorb material, but I would be interested in reading about any studies of this.
I have been troubled with chronic insomnia most of my life. My mother was also. The sleep doctor and the sleep study determined that I have a genetic sleep disorder. No surprise, but thankfully it’s not anything more serious, like sleep apnea.
The other, more enlightening result is my continued visits with said sleep doctor. We are surrounded by the blue light given off from our electronic screens. This is horrible for successful sleep. So I wear yellow glasses at night that fit over my actual glasses. While this does help, the fact is the best result for good sleep is to read a paper book. So while I know for a fact I would never get to sleep without reading, I have adjusted my bedtime reading to actual books.
I sit here typing these comments on my iPad at 6:18 am. Contrary to what I just told everyone! But you see, I am not even near ready to sleep. Can I live without ebooks, my magazines, or newspapers online? Probably not, but nor will I ever be willing to give up actual books.
Understanding all this and all these visits with my sleep doctor has been a valuable education. I have carefully saved the last 60 pages of my current paperback (Lorraine Heath’s “When a Duke Loves a Woman”) to read as my bedtime treat.
I have a good friend that asked me what she should do with all her books as she was going to all electronic books and was clearing out her bookshelves. Frankly, I was horrified. Of course I suggested she take them to the library. She said but some of them are old and outdated. As far as I am concerned, no book is ever outdated unless it’s a textbook. I understand those are also falling by the wayside. Helping her do this was painful for me. She just felt uncluttered. Different strokes for different folks!
There is indeed a happy medium for all of us. But watching tv late at night like I do, and reading on your Kindle or iPad is very detrimental to good sleep. Find your happy medium and just keep reading. No other pastime has ever replaced reading a book, and I doubt it ever will. Thanks Grace Burrowes, please keep up the excellent work.
Yes eReaders have changed the way I read. I read more books now with fewer trips to the library. It’s also easier to get the next book in the series. I continue to read real books too. Both forms of books can make me lose sleep, I have stayed up all night just to see how the story ends too many times.
I feel as you do; I prefer reading books and I’ve found that when I read using my Kindle I don’t remember the stories as well as I do the books. OK, I confess that I read certain books/authors over; even several times. There is a certain comfort in visiting old friends (only child in the country used books as friends…..) .
As an aside, I know you are/were a rider. I hope that you continue to ride; I miss not being in the world of horses and if you can physically, continue to do so. Sure makes exercise easier.
All the best
I am a fan of your contemporary romances set in Maryland. I love each of the Knightly brothers and the stories you weave. I’ve also enjoyed contemporaries set in Scotland and Texas. My husband is a big fan of your historical romances. Please keep on writing. You have a talent for it. 😉
For years now, my family has wanted to give me an e-reader for Christmas and I have adamantly said Don’t Bother!! I want a book in my hands that I can sink into, turn back a couple pages to reread if I wish, and not be straining my eyes (and my back) staring at a screen. I agree that the world of electronics is causing a tremendous decline in civility. We don’t know how to talk directly to each other anymore but will text or speak hurtful, vicious rubbish at the click of a key. Lies, mean and untrue gossip proliferates as we become more socially isolated from people and obsessively attached to our devices. Witness the sorry excuse we have for a President – the ultimate example of a complete Tweeting vulgarian.
I love being able to download the next ebook in a series from the library or bookstore when I finish a book in the middle of a workout, so I can continue my workout without interruption. Reading while exercising is my motivator! I also love that my ereader lies flat on the book holder of the exercise machines. I used to struggle to hold open paperback books while exercising. I love being able to return library books as soon as I finish a book (and therefore remember to do so), without taking a detour to the library. I love being able to bring a whole bunch of novels with me on a plane trip without taking any extra space or weight in my baggage.
Grace, I became an e-reader when I retired in the summer of 2009. My late husband gave me a first generation iPad and the rest is history. I loved that it synced to my laptop and phone and I always had my book close to me. It changed my relationship with physical books and I was able to finally let go of thousands from my overcrowded shelves. I gave my husband an iPad to replace his
Sony reader(remember those?) as he was a voracious reader, also. The best part of the
iPad was reading together in bed late at
night. Now, I tuck my old iPad in my bag when I go to chemo every week. It is a good distraction for the hours I spend hooked up to the IVs.
I read almost exclusively on my phone or iPad, and love being able to read wherever I am, read any book I want, having most of them with me at all times, be able to look up a reference or definition immediately, and not have to remember reading glasses (the light is never too dim to see the print, and I can alway increase the font size). Once I was reading a paper boo and wanted to check the definition of a word. I pressed the word on the page before remembering that this didn’t work on paper. All the legal references I use at work are online now (I remember when we subscribed to paper books with annual updates -what a chore it was to exchange the old for new pocket parts!), and then we had linked CD towers with discs that contained commentaries, statutes and cases).
My only worry with e-books is that they’ll be an e-disaster, and I’ll lose my library.
Hi Grace, I use ebooks on my laptop all the time now. When I first started with ebooks, I still prefered the hand held books. My issues with the ebooks are that it is not as easy to go back to check details while reading and I worry about the effect of the computer screen light on my sleeping habits.
Grace, I work in a bookstore in Canada. Our Teen section is heavily shopped and they buy hardcovers, as soon as they come out.
Before I became partnered, I read in bed every night. I would go to the library, or the bookstore, all the time and go through stacks of books a year. Then, when I moved in with my wonderful partner, I realized that my reading in bed could keep him awake if I had the light on. So I stopped reading as much for a number of years, as my days are pretty full. When I started reading on my iPhone, yes my iPhone, I started burning through books again just like I used to. It’s so small, convenient, easy for travel (and I spend a lot of time on planes for work), doesn’t disrupt him when he’s trying to sleep, and now I read in bed every night again. Unfortunately for authors though, that meant that I rapidly realized I was spending hundreds of dollars a month on books, which caused me to re-up my library card. So now I get everything on loan from the library. Sorry, Grace! 🙂