Gone Digital

I’m responsible for the death of Borders and the decline of Barnes & Noble.

That’s right, me, and thousands of others like me who now do most of their reading in digital formats.

Some occasional research aside, I now do all of my reading through the Amazon Kindle app, Apple’s Newsstand, or digital comics apps like comiXology. I’ve gotten tired of the extra clutter on shelves and around the house, and of stacks of books I may or may not actually get around to reading. I like having my entire library available to me on demand at any time, so I can flip from prose to comics to magazines on a whim, and I never feel stuck with a book I’m not enjoying. Shopping for new material is a click away, and clipping a magazine article is a simple matter of grabbing a screen shot and pushing it over to Evernote.

I. Love. It.

I even appreciate simple gimmicks, like interactive ads. Take this one from an issue of MuscleMag, featuring a video:

A brain break to watch things get blowed up good.

A brain break to watch things get blowed up good.

For a product I’m interested in, I’m absolutely cool with extras like this. If it’s not something I’m interested in, I swipe on by as if I were turning the page on any other ad in a magazine. (One note: if these ever become pop-ups or autoplays, publishers, we’re going to have words.)

I’m waiting for it to be properly taken advantage of in the actual content. I could care less about digital extras in fiction. I’m there for the prose, not the gimmicks. However, things like maps and infographics in newspapers and magazines could be greatly enhanced with multimedia content, just like we’re starting to see in textbook apps in the education world. And have you ever seen some of the convoluted and clumsy explanations for simple movements in sports and fitness magazines? A simple, animated image would be great, and wouldn’t even require full video download. Something like a simple gif would be perfect.

Are there cons to going all digital? Sure. The big ones are the tales of entire Amazon libraries being wiped out, or hackers nuking digital accounts. Fortunately these incidents are few and far between, especially given the millions of Amazon accounts out there. I’m hopeful these are growing pains of the digital transition, and these companies are reviewing and updating policies as these incidents occur.

The rest of the cons, however, are far from insurmountable:

I need the feel of a hardcopy book when I read. I just feel more connected. Even the smell of the book is wonderful!

Get over yourself, precious. Yeah, I felt the same way for a time. Then I realized how much easier it is to hold a Kindle or a tablet. An iPad is a bit heavy if you like to lie down in bed and read, but no heavier than a fat hardback book. The 7″ Nexus—and, presumably, an iPad mini—is very comfortable to hold anywhere. iPod touch? The latest Kindles and Nooks? Cake. And anything with a backlit display means reading in the dark without a goofy book light.

In short: don’t knock it until you try it.

Those digital screens are just too small.

Teachers all said the same thing when I told them they would be getting 13″ MacBooks to work on. Since the MacBooks have been distributed, I have not heard a single complaint.

The problem isn’t screen size, it’s resolution. Digital displays of all sizes are now as sharp and clear as printed content, and their higher contrast makes them even easier to read for some people. A good friend of mine is legally blind and reads print books with his nose two inches from the page, but when I handed him an iPad with the Kindle app and turned it to white text on a black screen, he could read it from what most of us would consider a normal distance.

I used to say my cell phone was too small for long reading. While stuck waiting for something and bored out of my mind, I pulled out my phone and opened the Kindle app. Within just a couple of page turns, I forgot all about the fact I was reading on a tiny screen, and now I hardly know the difference.

And Whispersync saving my page between devices? Gravy.

I can’t read outside!

Again, not as bad as it used to be with anti-glare coatings and brighter displays. This is going to come down to personal preference, but I don’t read outside near enough to make this an issue for me.

I have to worry about battery life!

Poor planning is your problem. Yes, I’ve screwed up with the iPad. I just pick up the cell phone instead. And if you let an e-ink Kindle or Nook die, you clearly aren’t paying attention.

I can’t figure out all these new-fangled devices and all these passwords!

Learn by doing. Ask questions. This problem isn’t about age, it’s about stubbornness.

I’ve gone all digital, and I’m not looking back.

Which then begs the question, do bookstores and libraries still have a place in the digital age?

Yes, they do. But that’s a topic for another post.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.