Do readers prefer paper or plastic?

  • Article by: JOHN EWOLDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 11, 2012 - 3:22 PM
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Jodi Chromey prefers to read actual books and likes the break from being wired while she reads.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

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Whether you like turning pages or turning on a device, the end result is the same: More people are reading than ever before, mostly due to the popularity of e-readers.

Those e-reading bibliophiles are gobbling up more pages than their papered cousins. According to a Pew Reseach Center study, the average reader of e-books says she has read 24 books in the past 12 months, compared with an average of 15 books by a non-e-book reader.

Readers like e-books if they want to get a book fast and are looking for a fairly wide selection. However, print is king when it comes to reading to children and sharing books with others.

Either way, publishers, librarians and English teachers the world over are happy to have more people reading. Two book lovers come to the defense of their preference.

 

Jodi Chromey prefers old-school reading

Age 39, lives in Shakopee

Occupation: Freelance writer, Web designer.

Number of books she owns: More than 500, including all of the "Sweet Valley High" series.

Started getting serious about reading: At age 12.

Number of books read: At least one a week.

Why she doesn't e-read: "I don't want to invite another screen into my life. Between my iPhone, iPad, laptop and TV, I spend a majority of my life in the unnatural glow of some electronic device."

What's better about books: "When I turn to a book, it's like shutting all that down. I turn my back on the e-world and settle into another place."

Other benefits she sees to books on paper: Nothing is going to pop up or buzz, no e-mail or Twitter notifications. Enjoying the cover art. Reading a little and then quickly flipping to the back to see what the author looks like and how old he or she might be. Reading the blurbs on the back cover. Not being concerned if I fall asleep and roll over on the book. "A crumpled page isn't as bad as slamming an e-reader in my face."

But the e-readers "save the trees" rationale?: How many chemicals were used and how much energy was consumed to create the e-reader in the first place?

 

Phebe Hanson loves her Kindle

Age 84, lives in Minneapolis

Occupation: Poet and retired English teacher.

Number of books she owns: 176 e-books and thousands of paper books on seven bookcases. "I've spent a lot of money on books in my lifetime, but it's one thing I don't ever regret spending money on."

Preference: Received a Kindle for her 81st birthday. She describes herself as a "bipolar" reader who prefers e-books but reads paper books, too.

Why she switched to e-books: Visual control. Being able to adjust the backlighting and the print size. Hanson is totally blind in one eye and has a cataract in the other. She likes the instant gratification you can get with e-books. "If I hear an author on public radio, I can download it at once."

First e-books she downloaded: The complete works of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, both of which were free. "If the authors are old enough, their books are free."

A potential digital downside: Buying e-books on impulse is too convenient. "Even though I know I'm paying for them, it doesn't seem like I am."

What she still needs books for: Local writers and poetry books, which are not yet available as e-books.

Instant gratification, part 2: One day after its warranty expired, her Kindle went belly-up. "I called Amazon on a Monday and by Wednesday I received a new one at no charge. I've gotten wonderful service."

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633 or jewoldt@startribune.com.

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