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June 3, 2020

          This is a multi-faceted question because I’m not only talking about the format, but the mood and setting.

            As a writer, I’m assuming you’re a reader as well. After all, most, if not all of you had to start as readers. Like me, I started with a love of reading long before I ever thought of writing. My first, disastrous stumbles at this passion were a far cry from what I do now and could’ve brought this all to a screeching halt. Through it all, I had a few flashes of brilliance, more or less, and they slowly nurtured my interest into a passion for writing.

            None of that would’ve happened if I wasn’t already a voracious reader.


            Back when I grew up, we had no choice but to read paper books, whether hard cover Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew or Bobsey Twins, or later on, soft cover trad paperback Edgar Rice Burroughs tomes. Then there were the “wyberry” endless supply of hardbacks, of which everything under the sun was available. Admittedly, I found little use in those because I had no interest in the classics, and frankly, knew close to nothing of genre fiction, being such a young spud.

            My parents had the odd paperback lying around the house, but they were often thick (lots of pages) and had tiny (at least for me at the time) print. Plus, the books were usually older and smelled funny. Paperbacks did not age well back then and to tell the truth, still don’t, but nowadays, I’m more inclined to appreciate the smell of an old book.


            To avoid a further history lesson and just jump to modern times, we have available nowadays paper books, e-books, audio books, video books, you name it. For the modern reader, there are a host of media available to enjoy your stories.

            The question is, if you enjoy reading, how do you choose to partake?


            Time is a factor for a lot of people. I know that’s affected book sales, no matter the format. While it takes time to sit down and read a book, some people just don’t have the time, with busy schedules (admittedly not as much a factor during the pandemic, but let’s push that aside for the moment). Then there’s the competition of TV and those with more active lifestyles.

            How do you fit in reading time?


            Some do it with audiobooks.

            I, for one, cannot multitask and listen to an audiobook as well as read. While I can listen to music CDs on my commute to and from work, I also tend to drift off into other worlds. Not only am I paying attention to the road, but the music is taking me places. Listening to Howard Stern interviewing someone, for instance, I miss details of the chat because I’m only catching some of it while something they say makes me think of something else. I don’t stay focused on all of what they’re saying. While I could, I suppose, I just don’t, because I don’t have to. The same with an audio book. I miss half the details because I drift.

            If I’m sitting down and reading, I absorb a lot more details over a longer period. It just works better for me. Less distracting.

            On the other hand, maybe a more active reader can utilize audiobooks better than I can. Is that what works for you?


How about videobooks? Sitting at a computer or a TV, watching someone read a book to you? Not a very common format, but around. Like sitting on grandma or grandpa’s knee and having them tell you a story. Maybe that works for you.


            Some people swear by e-books. They’re cheap once you buy the reader. They’re easy to work with, some say. It’s really easy to save your place. You can usually adjust the font size to make them easier to read. You can store thousands of books on a slab the size of a piece of bread.

            They’re the cat’s meow for many people.

            On the other hand, they’re not something with any significant tactile feel. They have no new or even old book smell. You can’t peek ahead to the end and “cheat” to see if the hero lives in the end. You can’t get signed copies…well not real ones anyway.

            Oh, and let’s not forget those sometimes fantastic vivid color covers that may or may not live up to what’s inside.


            There’s nothing like the tactile feel and smell of a good paper book. Holding something of significant weight and texture in your hand is the best. Sure, they cost more, and you have to mark your place, but I much prefer that. I can’t adjust the font size, but I’ve been used to that little annoyance for many decades.


            Time and place are critical for reading, no matter what the format. On the go may mean audio. E-books or paper can be anyplace. Video requires the technology and is usually in a fixed place.

            For some of you, things have to be quiet like a library. For others, like me, bombs can be going off and I don’t care. I’m usually reading in a mix of situations between early morning when everyone is asleep to the evening when everyone is watching TV, to me reading during commercials, or half reading when I’m only moderately interested in something showing on TV. It’s funny how that doesn’t work with audio books, but that’s just the way it works for me.

            How about you? What do you need to read?

            Other important factors are stress level, smells, physical condition, and where you’re sitting. If you aren’t comfortable, it’s pretty hard to concentrate on prose. Maybe it can be a welcome distraction from your uncomfortable situation, IF you can concentrate on it. Maybe not.


            We mustn’t forget the most important thing of all. The story and writing! If the writing and story sucks, it makes things so much more difficult! The story may be wonderful, but if the writing sucks, how can you suffer through it, regardless of the format or environment?

            The writing may be top-notch, but the story may suck. This is a much rarer instance. Usually if the writing is great, the story is also great. Not always, but if the writer has their stuff together with technique, they more than likely know how to put the rest together as well.


            How you read, how you prefer to read, all can make a difference in how much you enjoy what you’re reading.

            Something to think about when you write for others and they put your book in their hands (or whatever).

            Happy writing!

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