Posts tagged ‘digital books’

February 6, 2013

Weekly Writing Challenge: Digital vs. Paperback, or ‘My Humiliating Confession’

A few months ago, I had a shameful realisation. It truly pains me to share this with you, my dear blogosphere, but here goes: I have not finished reading a single book since high school. I have managed to get through a few books, but only those old favourites that I’ve gone back to reread. I haven’t finished anything new.

To be fair, I am only 22. But even so, 4 years is an awfully long time to not finish a single new book. Especially when you toy with the idea of being a writer.

So, how did this happen? Thinking back, it started as a combination of two factors. Firstly, I was a bit worn out by high school. Lot’s of people will think I’m crazy, but I needed a break from books. I needed to get out of other people’s stories, out of the high school universe, and into the real world for a bit.

Secondly, and I think more importantly, I fell in love. It was only a few months after I graduated that I met my boyfriend, and that was a pretty big distraction. What kind of 18-year-old would choose books over fooling around their a hot new flame? I much preferred getting to know him than ditching him for a paperback.

Eventually, of course, the excitement and distraction of new love evolved into the comfortable kind of love; we’re your life is entwined with, but no longer completely engulfed by the other person. But by this stage I had a full-time job, which quickly progressed into a stressful full-time job. With overtime. Suddenly I felt I had no time to read. My daily commute (which is where I might have found time to read) was cut short when I moved closer to work (which was awesome), and when I got home I just wanted to relax and fall asleep watching a movie.

Getting back into reading has only been one of my priorities for perhaps the past 18 months. I got an iPad, so I could get books cheaply, and I didn’t have to clutter up our tiny one bedroom apartment with books, or worry about reading fast enough to return them to the Library. And it was wonderful. I could carry it everywhere I went. It was easier and more comfortable to hold than a book. I could read when it was dark, without disrupting my boyfriends sleep. I had a world of books, and recommendations and reviews at the tips of my fingers.

Some people like the ‘feel’ and the ‘smell’ of a book, but I don’t have that nostalgia factor. I suppose it comes from reading of a monitor from a young age (but then again I know heaps of people my age who love paperback books). It’s the content that count for me.

So I loaded by Kindle app with Shakespeare, which I always loved in high school, and Jane Austin (who I’d never read) and I bought the fantasy novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke which my sister recommended. I started to read all of them and others, but never finish a single one.

I thought that since the last books I had read were for school, where someone else had prescribed the text and given me a deadline to read it by, that maybe I needed that structure to get back into the habit. Or perhaps what motivated me was the discussion around the books in class. So I decided to try the books from ABC’s First Tuesday Book Club. But I found I wasn’t interested in reading half the books. I tried reading How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely. I was enjoying it, and got most of the way through it, but for no real reason I lost interest. After their rave reviews of Silence of the Lambs, and having loved the film, I really wanted to read that. But there was no digital copy of it, and even finding a hard copy proved difficult. I did eventually find an old copy at a second-hand stall at a market, but I’ve moved interstate and it would completely blow out my baggage allowance to bring a giant hard cover book in my carry on (it also contained the other stories in the series).

I’m at a loss as to why I’m finding it so hard to get through a novel. It only occurred to me when pondering this writing challenge topic, that perhaps it was actually the format that was the problem. While I currently think wholeheartedly that digital is the best for me, maybe it has actually been my reading downfall. Maybe the convenience of switching over to check Twitter, play a game, read a blog, or watch an episode of Dr. Who is too tempting for me to resist. Maybe being able to physically feel how far through the book I’ve come, and what is left to read is important in keeping me interested. I can’t be sure.

Some time soon, I will drag my butt to a library and attempt this strategy for curing my novel-reading drought. I just need to pick a book…

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