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Why I’m Going Back To Physical Books

Four years ago, I wrote a book called “5 Reasons Why I’m A Kindle Guy Now” and in it, I detailed 5 different reasons for why I preferred electronic books over Kindle books. However, after being a Kindle book reader for 4 years, I’m feeling a longing for the old fashioned paperback and hard copy. I miss physical books. When I wrote the article a while back on why I liked Kindle books, I still stand by everything I said. Kindle books are lot more practical for lots of reasons, but I miss the feel of physical books now. And here’s why:

The Feel Of A Book

I miss feeling the texture of the books in my hands, running my unsharpened mechanical pencil, retracted pen, or whatever across the words, I miss occasionally smelling them (yes, I’m one of the weirdos who do that). I miss being able to skim through the pages without something freezing up.

The Study Stacks

Moreover, back when I read physical books, when I would heavily study a topic for an upcoming debate, a book I planned on writing, or a series of blog posts I planned on writing, I would take the ones on that particular topic off the shelf and pile them into a couple of stacks in the order I planned on reading them. You just can’t do that with Kindle books. Indeed, as far as I can tell, there’s no way to even organize your Kindle books into little folders on your device (by genre, by author, by subject, or however you wish to arrange them). They’re just listed in the order you’ve bought them when you first install the Kindle App on your new device, and then in the order in which you’ve read them after that.

I’ve tried to recreate the “Study Stacks” artificially by taking images of the book covers from Amazon and Good Reads and lining them up in rows in MS Paint (Paint X now that I’m on Mac), but it’s just not as convenient. If I decide I want to change the order up, it’s more involved than shuffling real books around. There’s a lot of cutting, copying, pasting, and dragging around. And sometimes the images aren’t all the same size so they get distorted and become an eyesore. I miss the study stacks.

People Cannot Sign Files

So if I ever go to a theology or apologetics conference, or a book signing, or anywhere the author of a book I have is speaking, if all I have are his books in electronic form, he’ll have nothing to sign. I love getting the authors to sign the books I own. Back at the Truth For A New Generation conference in Spartanburg South Carolina in 2015, I met Lee Strobel (the one who, if you read my story, was my entry into the world of apologetics). I had him sign my copy of “The Case For Christ”, the first apologetics book I ever owned. In 2017, at The National Conference On Christian Apologetics in Charlotte North Carolina, I had Norman Geisler add his signiture to the first page of “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist”. I had gotten Frank Turek’s signature years earlier. And in 2011, my first apologetics conference ever, back when I was just a 19 year old, beardless, fedoraless kid, I got William Lane Craig to sign my copy of “On Guard”. Unfortunately, in 2018 when I and David Parrish (now a Cerebral Faith Patron) went to The Evangelical Theological Society conference in Denver Colorado, I could not have Kirk MacGregor sign my copy of his biography on Luis De Molina. Why? Because I only owned it in e-book form. I suppose I could have had him write on my phone, but it would be hard to do “Facebooking” as my parents would say, if MacGregor’s signature was constantly in the way.

The Impressive Library

Let’s face it. You look a heck of a lot more academic with shelves of physical books adorning your study than a cloud full of MOBI files. Your friends get to stare in awe as you hear them ask “Have you read ALL these books?” And of course is the answer is no. Having a complete collection of read books is a will-o-the-wisp for people like me. For every one book you get done reading, there’s always 5 more that take its place.

Every Book Has A Story

When I look at the physical books I do own, I notice that a lot of them have got sentimental value. I usually can remember the occasion. “I got this one at this conference at this year. I was with my friend so and so when I bought it”, “This book was a gift mailed to me by my friend from across the country.”. As already stated, “The Case For Christ” was the first book on apologetics I ever read, and it kept me from falling away during my (first) crisis of faith. And then 4 years later, I finally met Lee Strobel who signed THAT very copy. I have Bruce Shelly’s “Church History In Plain Language”. I got it from this church I attended for a short while in Easley SC, not far from my house. I took a church history course there and that and Glenn Sunshine’s “Why You Think The Way You Do” were required reading. So the teacher gave all the students a copy of both of those, with the price of tuition paid. This was back in 2015. I have some books that were sent to me by the authors in exhange for a review and podcast interview. And some of them are signed! I don’t have the same kind of emotional attachments to the files I download for $9.99.

Mail Box Excitement

Whenever I order a new book, or someone sends me one as a gift, or in a tit-for-tat read/review/podcast interview exchange, I always enjoy walking down to my mailbox, opening up the door and either being disappointed if it’s not here yet, or jumping for joy like a little kid on Christmas if it is. Needless to say, clicking the “Buy now for $9.99 button” on the Amazon website and having it immediately available on my phone just doesn’t generate those same kinds of emotions.

Thanks To The C-Pen, I Can Have The Best Of Both Worlds

Among the things I listed in my article “5 Reasons Why I’m A Kindle Guy Now” were (1) Having Text-To-Speech available, (2) Not having to quote authors like an ancient scribe (i.e look at the book, type a little, look at the book again, repeat until he’s fully quoted).

I recently discovered a neat item called the C-Pen I’m planning on buying. It’s a little pricy, but it allows one to scan a book and have it read aloud to you. I’ve looked at some reviews (e.g this one) and it looks like it does exactly as advertised. You turn it on, scan the words on the page, and it’ll read the text back to you. It’s designed for people like dyslexics who have difficulty reading. Now, I do NOT have difficulty reading. Not at all. My reading ability is perfectly normal. However, I DO have difficulty retaining large amounts of information if I read them silently. It’s more of a learning difficulty than a reading difficulty. I remember things better when I hear the content and see it in written form than if I just read the content silently. In the past, I would get around this hurdle by reading to myself aloud either talking in a normal speaking volume or whispering. That’s become increasingly inconvenient. For example, during allergy season, this is practically impossible. During allergy season, my throat is often sore and it hurts to talk. Sometimes my tongue will swell for God knows why and it will hurt to talk. It’s just become kind of pain to have to talk the entire time I’m reading a book for the sheer sake of my brain retaining the content more sufficiently.

Having a stylus that could scan the words and read it back to me while I’m scanning would be worth all of the $250 bucks it costs. I’ve been having Alexa read Kindle books to me and I’ve also been investing in audiobooks, but like I said, I feel a longing for the pleasure that comes from physical books. I love the way they smell, the way they feel in my hands, and you look more academic having shelves lined with the latest biblical commentaries than having a bunch of PDFs or MOBI files on your phone.

Aside from getting TTS with a physical book, I also don’t have to go into scribe mode if I want to quote an author. The C-Pen can save text that it scans and you can transmit it to your computer via a USB connection. It’s slightly more involved than simply copy/pasting the text from the PC/Mac Kindle app, but heck of a lot less involved than looking at the book, typing what I read, and repeating the process until I get the full paragraph transcribed. To think that this is how people used to make entire copies of books before the printing press! What a pain in the butt! The C-Pen, if it works as advertised (and it has gotten a lot of positive reviews), then it would fix two of the problems I had with physical books. No more using my own voice box for text to speech and no more acting like an ancient scribe.

Conclusion

I probably won’t physical versions of the books I already own in Kindle format (except poorly formatted ones like Aaron Yilmaz’ “Deliver Us From Evolution?”), but going forward the books I get probably will be physical. I just miss that format too much for the reasons cited, and given that I think I found a way to remove two of the cons (i.e The C-Pen), I see no reason why I shouldn’t go back.

Speaking of books, I have written some that I hope you will read;

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