Paper book vs e-book vs audio book : which is better and why

I am an avid book reader. There has never been a point in my life that there has not been a book around me. I mean, even when I doing number 2, there has to be a book near me. So, with the advent of e-book readers and audio books, one would say, I have reached my book heaven.

Er, actually, no. I am more confused than ever! What format should I adopt, completely? Should I stick with the paper version, should I buy a hardware (Kindle, Kobe etc.) or should I follow audio books more avidly?

Therefore, to answer my questions, I have chosen 5 criteria to gauge the desirability of one format over the other.

1. Read-ability

What I mean by this criteria is the ease with which I can read (or hear) a format. In that regard paper wins hands down. I mean there is no way the e-book readers can compare with the fonts and the paper background that a paper book. I have looked at both and I can conclusively say that ebook readers suck as far this criteria is concerned.

And what about audio books? Well, this where the audio book scores very high except in one scenario (I will come to it soon).

The biggest feature of an audio book is it’s ability to fill in free time. By that I mean when you go out running and you are not in the mood for music. Spend time listening to a book (other formats fail here). When you are waiting in doctor’s waiting room, listen to a book (in case you forgot to bring other formats). And so and so forth.

Audio books have an ease of reading that is unparalleled but they feel miserable miserably in one aspect. Night time reading. One of my most pleasurable moments of the entire day is night time reading. The evenings I am not able to read at night, I just feel the day has not ended on a high note. In that regard, audio books fail completely. I have tried and I cannot get used to the idea of listening to a book before going to sleep at night (which is strange because I use the drone of an audio book to put me to sleep on the GO train).

So, I will stick to a paper book as the choice under this criteria.

Paper Book = 3; E book = 1 ; Audio Book = 2

2. Browse-ability

One of my projects in my life is collecting books. And I don’t mean first editions or rare editions. Since I read 2 – 3 books at a time, one of the books I read is usually a repeat. I love to sit and browse through my collection trying to figure out which book to read.

Therefore, in that regard, a paper book wins again. I sometimes sit in front of my bookshelf for 20 to 30 minutes just browsing books – opening a book I have read before and just reading a page randomly trying to decide if this is the book I should read. That’s just not possible with ebook (ok maybe just a little bit) and definitely not with audio books.

Paper Book = 2; E book = 1 ; Audio Book = 0

3. Durability

Of course if I have a bookshelf and I like to browse, the books have to have durability. I don’t want to open a book after a few years and find out that the book is now junk because of a little moisture. Sadly, paper books fail in that sense.

Paper Book = 0; E book = 2 ; Audio Book = 2

That is not to say that if you take care of your books, they will still be destroyed. But the chances that I may drop a book in a puddle of water or leave the book on a plane are high. However, if I do the same with ebook reader or an MP3 player, I still have the book. Just not the hardware which I can easily buy again.

4. Environment friendly

Sadly paper books fail miserably, again. There is no easier way to say this……. Books kill trees and have a detrimental affect on the environment. That’s not to say that other formats have no impact at all. I mean, the ebook reader and an MP3 player have a huge carbon footprint when compared to a book. The thing is that you buy a hardware once and use it for many years practically negating the initial affect.

As an environment conscience guy, this is one of main reasons why I want to stop buying books and convert to the other two formats.

Paper Book = 0; E book = 2 ; Audio Book = 2

5. Second hand-ability

One of the main ways I purchase books are at the hand me downs shops tucked away in the various corners of a city. It gives me so much satisfaction to
roam around a bookstore and find a used book a second home in my life at a heavily discounted price. And this feature does not exist in the other formats. You pay for a book whatever the list price is at the back cover.
Unless there is a deal going on, the price never changes.

Unfortunately, this is kind of a deal breaker for me. My library consists mostly of used and discarded books and, on a rare occasion, a new book. I
look at my books as friends I have known for a long time. My copy of Starship Troopers (bought at $3/-) has been read and re-read numerous times. I can start the book at any page and immerse myself in it
completely. The same goes for Moby Dick. Or Brave New World.

This criteria alone tops every other criteria listed and is the sole reason why I continue to purchase paper books rather than other formats. Unless a dazzling new way of reading comes up, I am afraid I will be sticking to paper books and a few free books on other platforms.

Paper Book = 3; E book = 0 ; Audio Book = 0

Total Score :

Paper Book = 8;
E Book = 4
Audio Book = 6;

Nikolski

Based on a podcast I started following recently, What Canada Reads, I bought this book with much trepidation from World’s Biggest Book Store (BTW, is it really the biggest book store?). Why the trepidation, I will go into it soon.

Brief synopsis of the book : the story follows three people (Noah (a descendant of native Canadian), Joyce (a descendent of Canadian pirates) and the book’s narrator). Each of these characters have had an odd upbringing and are connected to each other by a book that has been sown together from three books. In the end each character continues on a new adventure away from the drudgery of their current lives.

I love books that have parallel stories going on and have a thread of commonality between the stories especially when the authour holds off on the link right till the end. On that note, this book really delivers!

The pace of the book is remarkable. The book reads like a wave – sometimes it’s smooth sailing, sometimes turbulent and sometimes scary. By the time the authour had introduced us to the characters’ quirks and obsessions, he tells us how they are living their lives (one is idling away in a bookstore, one is selling fish by day and pirating (credit cards, etc.) by night and the last one is in some island digging up garbage for analysis). But you can feel the restlessness of each of these characters. They have a yearning to move on but they are completely lost and would have stayed that way but thanks to circumstances beyond their control (or because of it) they find a new lease on their lives.

The prose of the book is sublime and easy to read. I mean, I don’t really read a book very fast but I was able to read and absorb this book in 5 days. By absorb I mean, I would go back a few pages every now and then to try and get to the meaning (another reason why I don’t read books quickly).

On the whole a very satisfying book which will keep bouncing in your head for a few days.

BTW, my trepidation on buying this book from World’s Biggest Book Store stems from the fact that the book industry is represented by Indigo here in Canada. That’s it. There are no other big names and it really irritates me that they dictate the industry. The only challenge is from Amazon and that leaves me unsatisfied because I LOVE book stores so I go to only the small book stores for my purchases (New books). Therefore, when purchasing this item from Indigo I felt like I was committing a crime but the book was at a discount ($10!!) and it was signed by the authour. A deal that could not be overlooked.

War And Peace

Well after trying three times over the last 4 years I have finally finished the book War And Peace. Man, I feel like I have just finished a marathon!

So where do I begin? First the obvious – the book is every bit as good as everyone says it is. The book has everything in it : politics, romance, sex, spiritual enlightenment, war, death, jealousy and a gamut of human emotions that would result in a long, long a list. The book delves deep into all these human emotions with a clarity that is astounding and the reader cannot help but “feel” what a character feels.

The book was like a first hand account of the life and times of Russia in 1812. The society norms, the way people lived, their thoughts, their actions, their ideas were all a in the book. Not only a peasant but actual historical figures were a big part of the book and Tolstoy did a marvelous job describing them.

When I read a book, I try to “visualise” the feelings and the scene and more often than not, I have to fill in the gaps because the authour could not put in words the scene. But I did not have to do that with this book at all.

I had no trouble putting myself in Pierre’s shoes when he finds that he has no alternative left but to assassinate Napoleon. I had no trouble putting myself in Natasha’s shoes when she overcomes her grief of losing the love of her life to take care of her mother who has just learned her favourite son is dead. I had no trouble in understanding why Kutuzov wants to reign in his army from trying to capture Napoleon as he fled from Russia.

My favourite character in the book was Pierre Bezukhov. The illegitimate son who becomes one of the richest men in Russia when he inherits his father’s estate. His story fascinates me : how to live a morally good life. I thought that this was the central theme of the book and Tolstoy has described in wonderful detail the trials and tribulations that Pierre goes through until finally he discovers new peace and a sense of existence as a prisoner of war.

Tolstoy has done mankind a favour by writing this book.

Orson Scott Card

<Link To Wikipedia Entry For Orson Scott Card>

Being a fan of science fiction, how can one ignore Orson Scott Card. He has written two Hugo winning books, one of which is amongst my personal favourites, Ender’s Game. Here is a brief synopsis to whet your appetite

It is set in Earth’s future where mankind has barely survived two conflicts with the Formics (an insectoid alien race also known as the “Buggers”) and the International Fleet is preparing for war. In order to find and train the eventual commander for the anticipated third invasion, the world’s most talented children, including the extraordinary Ender Wiggin, are taken into a training center known as the Battle School at a very young age and trained in the arts of war through increasingly difficult games.

The book is very very good. It takes you through the morality issues, the “human” issues and some political issues. The setting created by Card is truly awesome. I know most of the focus is on the BattleSchool described in the book, I loved the virtual game that Ender plays and how he forces the computer to continue beyond it’s limits and how, eventually, it is revealed that the game is tied intrinsically with Ender’s life. And the ending…..wow!!! It was a complete knockout punch by Card. Never had he prepared the reader on what was going to happen.

I read the sequel too, Speaker For The Dead in which Ender has come to terms (or is in the process of coming to terms) with his role in the massacre of an intelligent race in the previous book and now is actually a protector of life.

But the sequel did disturb me a little bit. In the first book the focus was on the action, politics and moral issues. The sequel was all those but there was a heavy dose of spirituality in the book. Spirituality is fine with me but I could not help feel that Card had overdone it. It seemed he was PREACHING even though he never put it in so many words.

And when I read the third book in the series Xenocide, I was convinced that there was something going on with the author (remember this was all before easy access to Internet so I could not look it up).

Now, of course, it is common knowledge that Card is a conservative. He abhors  gays, he loves Bush’s War On Terror and he does not believe in global warming.

When I found this about Card, I have begun to detest his novels. Not Ender’s Game. That one is still pretty good. But the rest of the novels, have lost their meaning.

Here is an author who wrote and explained beautifully what it means to be a human; What it means to preserve life; What it means try and kill another race just because it is different, and then in real life he is all for killing “them because they hate us”.

This hypocrisy is really difficult for me to swallow.

Update : The reason for this post is this article on Card.

Looks Like Douglas Adams Was Right!!

This looks right out of a Douglas Adams’ novel.

Sometimes, a simple, even childish question turns out to be connected to the deepest secrets of the universe. Here’s one: How many different ways can you tie your shoelaces?

Mathematicians have been puzzling over that question for a century or two, and the main thing they’ve discovered is that the question is really, really hard. In the last decade, though, they’ve developed some powerful new tools inspired by physics that have pried a few answers from the universe’s clutches. Even more exciting is that the new tools seem to be the tip of a much larger theory that mathematicians are just beginning to uncover. That larger mathematical theory, if it exists, may help crack some of the hardest mathematical questions there are, questions about the mathematical structure of the three- and four-dimensional space where we live.

And here is the immortal Adams describing how the most powerful machine in the world is operated :

“The central computational area,” said Slartibartfast unperturbed, “this is where every calculation affecting the ship in any way is performed. Yes I know what it looks like, but it is in fact a complex four-dimensional topographical map of a series of highly complex mathematical functions.”

“It looks like a joke,” said Arthur.

“I know what it looks like,” said Slartibartfast, and went into it. As he did so, Arthur had a sudden vague flash of what it might mean, but he refused to believe it. The Universe could not possibly work like that, he thought, cannot possibly. That, he thought to himself, would be as absurd as … he terminated that line of thinking. Most of the really absurd things he could think of had already happened.

And this was one of them.

It was a large glass cage, or box — in fact a room.

In it was a table, a long one. Around it were gathered about a dozen chairs, of the bentwood style. On it was a tablecloth — a grubby, red and white check tablecloth, scarred with the occasional cigarette burn, each, presumably, at a precise calculated mathematical position.

And on the tablecloth sat some half-eaten Italian meals, hedged about with half-eaten breadsticks and half-drunk glasses of wine, and toyed with listlessly by robots.

It was all completely artificial. The robot customers were attended by a robot waiter, a robot wine waiter and a robot maetre d’. The furniture was artificial, the tablecloth artificial, and each particular piece of food was clearly capable of exhibiting all the mechanical characteristics of, say, a pollo sorpreso, without actually being one.

And all participated in a little dance together — a complex routine involving the manipulation of menus, bill pads, wallets, cheque books, credit cards, watches, pencils and paper napkins, which seemed to be hovering constantly on the edge of violence, but never actually getting anywhere.

Slartibartfast hurried in, and then appeared to pass the time of day quite idly with the maetre d’, whilst one of the customer robots, an autorory, slid slowly under the table, mentioning what he intended to do to some guy over some girl.

Slartibartfast took over the seat which had been thus vacated and passed a shrewd eye over the menu. The tempo of the routine round the table seemed somehow imperceptibly to quicken. Arguments broke out, people attempted to prove things on napkins. They waved fiercely at each other, and attempted to examine each other’s pieces of chicken. The waiter’s hand began to move on the bill pad more quickly than a human hand could manage, and then more quickly than a human eye could follow. The pace accelerated. Soon, an extraordinary and insistent politeness overwhelmed the group, and seconds later it seemed that a moment of consensus was suddenly achieved. A new vibration thrilled through the ship.

Slartibartfast emerged from the glass room.

“Bistromathics,” he said. “The most powerful computational force known to parascience. Come to the Room of Informational Illusions.”

Read the rest to get a good laugh!!