Just recently I experienced a massive digital wake-up call that forced me to acknowledge a new truth — digital books CAN be better than print.
I received a free digital Marvel comic book as a bonus for attending the new Avenger’s Age of Ultron movie on opening weekend. I downloaded the app, created an account, loaded in the access code for my free comic, and was soon thoroughly entertained by comic images specially spliced to display in small chunks over my iPhone.
Suddenly I had a strange thought — I’m enjoying this more than the last time I paged through a real comic! The images were crisper and in most cases displaying larger and with better color on my phone than they would be on a printed comic book page.
I enjoyed the experience so much I kept the app and have returned to it again and again when I wanted a quick fix of a good story and cool art. Quite beyond my expectations, I really prefer the digital comics over the physical printed editions.
Falling in love with digital
It’s important to understand how shocking this is to me — I love physical books. I want to turn the pages and smell the ink. I’m a bit of a book abuser: I fold down the page corner to mark my place, write in the margins and underline sentences I like. I crave a tactile connection with the physical book that, up until this experience, hadn’t found in digital books.
This feels like a revolutionary transformation because I’m a self publisher and I’ve spent thousands of dollars over the years on cover art, book layout design, and eye-watering print costs because I feel so loyal to creating printed books. Why am I messing with all this expense when a well-designed digital version could provide a better experience and be far cheaper to produce?
Yes, there will always be some books that you really want in print, and I like to think I’ve gone the extra mile to make my books stand out from the crowd. I also know the early days of digital download delivery were fraught with glitches, which still makes many quilters wary of purchasing digital content to this day.
Price of shelf space
But there’s a hidden tax to purchasing printed books: Space.
Printed books, especially big craft books, take up lots shelf space, and add weight and clutter to your home. This past week I was forced to reassess my craft book collection and purge more than 60 books from my shelves.
This was a challenging project because I really wanted to keep all my books, but they just weren’t being used enough to justify large amount of space they were taking up.
Had this collection been purchased digitally, would I ever need to do this? Digital books only take up a few kilobytes on my computer and I can easily store them in my Dropbox account. I could potentially keep hundreds of books, with the added bonus of never having to dust them!
Subtle switch to streaming
In the middle of my craft book purge, I noticed my messy DVD shelf and caught myself wondering, “Do I need any of this stuff anymore?”
Between Netflix and Amazon Prime, most of these shows and movies are available as streaming online video. So long as my internet connection is working, why do I need to keep this messy collection of plastic DVD cases on this shelf?
The same is true for audiobooks. In college, I crated my entire collection of Harry Potter cassette tapes, plus tape player, from room to room. Now I can access thousands of titles from Audible.com and download the book I want to hear to my phone anytime.
In the case of movies, music, and audiobooks, the switch to downloadable or streaming content was an easy and convenient choice to make. These days I’m able to enjoy more content, listen to more music, watch more movies, but store far less as physical “stuff” in my home.
Printed craft books have been my final holdout, but I can see clearly that this will be changing, too. Quite apart from anything else, I don’t want to build another collection of cool books I love, only to run out of space to enjoy them.
So what is your take on digital verses print? Which do you prefer to buy and why? Share your experience in the comments below and explore!
Let’s go quilt,
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