For the Love of Printed Books

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Posts 466
Butters | Forum Activity | Posted: Tue, Sep 3 2013 11:43 AM

I was hoping to hear from people about why they prefer digital books.  It's something I'm very curious about.  Please feel free to tell me I'm completely off-base; that I haven't yet experienced what is a far richer reader experience because I haven't given them a chance, etc. 

The truth is, I really want to prefer digital books; they're cheaper, cleaner, smaller (Stick out tongue), and so on.  


On the one hand, I love digital books within a narrow range of books.  Having the entire corpus of Ancient Greek and Latin manuscripts on Logos, all linked to resources such as the LSJ, the Middle Little (and hopefully the L&S and the OLD) is so immensely useful it is difficult to exaggerate.  It is for once appropriate to use that abused word "revolutionary."  

And, my dead tree OED (and LSJ, etc.) are taking up acres of shelf space, are unwieldy and comparatively inert and lifeless and un-dynamic, and much harder to use. So as I migrate to digital resources, those resources are slowly migrating out of my study into the living room to join us for cocktails, where we can gaze lovingly upon their gorgeous spines.

AND YET, on the other hand, I generally prefer dead-tree books overall. And for many, many reasons.

One of them is this: the human brain is wired to place memories spatio-visually. One remembers where thing are by associating them with something seen; this is how memories are placed and retrieved. I have an immense memory of certain books I've read; but when I look at what that memory is rooted in, it's connected with all the underlining, and fingerprints from chocolate, and bent pages where I thought something was important, and smudges, and dents, and rips and so on.

This is not only beautiful (I truly cherish my books ) it is also an incredibly rich environment for memory; they embody a great deal of visual and tactile feedback, where the book changes every time I pick it up and read it. Indeed, when I walk through my study: literally the conversations and dialogues with a given book, should it catch my eye, are reignited. I wouldn't give up that conversation and memory and ongoing community for anything. This would never happen if I were to walk past my iPad. LOL.

There is really something in that; something I imagine everyone can relate to. There's something important about having one's books - out, in the open, lined up on shelves, that helps to keep them active in one's memory.

Visual and spatial cues take advantage of what Coleridge called the "hooks and eyes" of memory. And "spatial context" is particularly important when dealing with memorization. In his blog, neuroscientist Mark Changizi explains that "in nature, information comes with a physical address [and often a temporal one], and one can navigate to and from the address. Those raspberry patches we found last year are over the hill and through the woods -- and they are still over the hill and through the woods."

For millions of years before the Internet, "the mechanisms for information storage were largely spatial and could be navigated, thereby tapping into our innate navigation capabilities. Our libraries and books -- the real ones, not today's electronic variety -- were supremely navigable." (from an online article on memory and digital books I read a long time ago - can't find it

In other words, the human brain uses location to recall the words it reads, which helps reinforce the information. To trigger a memory, the brain might recall whether it read the information at the top, middle, or bottom of the page, remember a corresponding picture on the page, or even a page number -- essentially creating a mental bookmark to cue recall of the information.

Said another way...Otherwise, out of sight, of of mind - to some extent. And on a digital reader, they are pretty much "out of sight."

The fact is, we are dealing with an exceedingly new medium for reading and learning "books" or texts.

Again, I love digital resources for the reasons stated above and more; however, I do think that, for all the benefits of digital reading (and there are many!), we do give up something very precious if we abandon paper-based books - for the above and many other reasons.

Just my two centavos.  

~Butters Smile

Here's my technologically-challenged "e-reader" in my study.  Sort of.  Embarrassed

“To love means loving the unlovable.  To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable.  Faith means believing the unbelievable.  Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” ~Chesterton

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DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Sep 3 2013 12:06 PM

Well, what did it for me were the features of: 1) Ability to search a particular phrase without having to re-read the whole thing if I forgot where I read it, 2) Ability to attach as many notes as I want and go back and edit them, 3) Ability to highlight and change the color of the highlights if I change my mind (also copy and paste instead of having to rewrite the whole paragraph), 4) Ability to see other referenced works that are linked together (subject to resource availability), AND 5) Ability to carry all my books in my iPad or Laptop (comes in very handy when moving to another place - I literally donated about 95% of my print library to my home church since I already have most of my books in Logos).

That's all folks!


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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Sep 3 2013 12:28 PM

Like DAL I too have converted primarily to digital and have donated most of my paper library to several places. Here are my primary reasons for loving digital:

  1. Portability
  2. Takes up less space
  3. Search capabilities
  4. Lower cost

Using adventure and community to challenge young people to continually say "yes" to God

Posts 163
Reimar Vetne | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Sep 3 2013 1:24 PM

Continuing on DAL's list, I would add:
6) Rapid point-and-click look-up of Greek and Hebrew words in lexicons (takes much longer to look up words in alphabetical paper lexicons, not to mention looking up words in Louw & Nida's excellent semantic domain lexicon, having to use the second volume index to find the right place in the first volume...)
7) Rapid point-and-click look-up in a Bible dictionary of people, places, items and events found in a Bible passage
8) Fast access to many commentaries on a passage.

About the latter: I am currently writing a 400 page commentary on John's gospel, and as part of my thinking about each paragraph of John I have about 20 paper commentaries on John on my desk and 40 electronic Logos commentaries that I check. Obviously I don't read everything equally carefully, but I read some carefully and at least skim through all the commentaries. I find that I spend much more time on the 20 paper commentaries than I do on the 40 digital ones, simply because opening book after book in print to the right place takes time.

One advantage of paper books, on the other hand, is that once I read A LOT in one book, I read faster on paper than on my iPad or PC. So with monographs it is the opposite of commentaries. I absorb the message of one paper monograph on the Gospel of John much faster than a digital one of the same length. With a paper book we can quickly read the back side, the introduction, the first and last paragraphs of each chapter. It is simply faster to navigate back and forth and get an overview of a paper book, and it is faster (for me at least) to do the actual reading in a paper book as well. So unlike many others here on the forum who give away or sell their paper versions once they have it in Logos, I do not. I keep the paper version until I have read it, since I find reading on paper is faster, and THEN I let it go once it is read and I keep only my Logos version for future reference.

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Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Sep 3 2013 2:20 PM

Very thoughtful post, Butters. Well ssid.

Said another way...Otherwise, out of sight, of of mind - to some extent. And on a digital reader, they are pretty much "out of sight."

I had an experience of this very thing just the other day. I had taken out my very first e-book from the library a month or so ago. It was to expire in three weeks. I was enjoying reading it for a few days, but then as often happens, I got distracted and left it for a couple of weeks. And then I suddenly remembered that I'd borrowed an e-book but, my memory being as unreliable as it is lately (due in large part to how much of it I've outsourced to my computer, no doubt), I couldn't for the life of me remember what it was or where I'd put it. It wasn't in my Kindle app. And my library account showed that I had no e-books checked out, so I'd let it expire without a trace. I even called the library to see if they had access to a history of what e-books I'd taken out so that I could take it out again and finish it, but they didn't.

Now with paper library books, I would have seen it lying around my house somewhere, and that would have reminded me that I had it out and needed to finish it. I might have incurred a fine if I'd gotten distracted and left it too long, but it wouldn't have vanished into thin air.

There are a number of Logos books that I've started reading and become distracted and left by the wayside. But at least with those I usually remember to tag them READING so that I can find them again.

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JT (alabama24) | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Sep 3 2013 2:30 PM

Otherwise, out of sight, of of mind - to some extent. And on a digital reader, they are pretty much "out of sight."

With me, paper books are "out of sight, out of mind." Wink One of the things I love most about Logos... is serendipitously discovering that an old book I read a long time ago and had forgotten about has "just the thing" I was searching for. That doesn't happen with paper books. 

I'd prefer better ways to manage my library on Logos. For example, it isn't uncommon for me to be "reading" 20 books at a time. Some I start and chug through until I am done. Others I mull around a bit (more "chug a lug" Big Smile). It would be nice if there were a good way for me to visually have a "book shelf" to place books. Some would stay there always. Some would stay there for a while. Many would be there temporarily while I read straight through them.

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Brother Mark | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Sep 3 2013 2:50 PM

Fascinating topic, and one that I have completely dealt with.  Until the issue comes up again.  

Like you, I am a lover of the physical entity that encapsulates a book: the heft of it, the smell, the joy of kinetically turning a page.  For me, my digitized books aren't nearly as appealing, but are far more accessible.  The endorphin rush of cracking open a leather bound tome of soon-to-be-discovered intellectual wealth is replaced by a different rush as I rapidly pursue cross references, multiple sources, and easily annotate my impressions and discoveries with Logos for later review.

Yes, its different.  I confess to missing those good old days of dog-eared pages. I don't usually dwell on it though.... I've completely dealt with those tactile and visual issues.  Mostly.

"I read dead people..."

Posts 2290
GaoLu | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Sep 3 2013 3:26 PM

Imagine giving up giving up the tactile and visual of an abacus for a calculator.  Remember turning to the back of the mathematics book to scour log tables? (OK, bad memory there)

I suspect the younger generation will miss a joy, but move on to other great joys as paper books fade from use.  I love paper books, the heft, the smell, even finger-print stains and color-crayon marks left on pages by my children. Perhaps one day soon software engineers will improvise a way to make books more fun to browse and flip through.  Perhaps the first will be those at Logos.    

Transitioning is still hard.  Yet today, I rarely read a paper book anymore.  I am finding that I can even read digitally almost as fast as paper, maybe faster.  The advantages of digital reading is far greater than a calculator over and abacus.  Still, not long ago I saw an old woman in a village store with her abacus in hand, cradling it, caressing it, like a child. I think I know how she feels. 



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William Gabriel | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Sep 3 2013 6:48 PM

I understand people who visually remember the location of what they've read on the page--that works for me too, but even with that "benefit" of physical books, it can still be a bear to find that spot when you recall a passage and want to see the precise text. The one caveat is with the Bible itself: because it has a reference attached to the text along with the physical location, I find I can very quickly find what I remember by search even if all the info isn't precisely at the tip of my brain.

But aside from that, I have found that eBooks are far better for the way my brain works. Searching, highlighting, copy/paste, remote library accessibility are killer features. Add linking to the theological library in Logos and it's no contest. I like having a whole library in my pocket where I can read a few paragraphs while I walk down the hall at work.

The biggest benefit I can see to the real book is for when the grid goes down. If we lived in a "Revolution" type world, my Kindle and Logos libraries would be pretty useless. I'd appreciate the heck out of the few books I have, but for now they are mere decoration and only serve to falsely "impress" visitors to my home.

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Keep Smiling 4 Jesus :) | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Sep 3 2013 8:54 PM

Favorite Logos feature is visual filter highlighting that combines hundreds of searches for simultaneous display so can see range of verbal expression:

Wiki has =>

For interacting with a sermon while seated in a service, Thankful for leather bound bibles.  Personally dreaming of leather bound bibles with Logos highlighting => Suggestion: Parallel Bible Print-on-Demand

Keep Smiling Smile

Posts 2850
Mike Childs | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Sep 3 2013 9:17 PM

I love having paper books on my bookshelves.  I want books that are special to me surrounding me on my shelves.  I want to see them and hold them.

But when I am ready to actually read them, I put the books back on the shelf and grab my Kindle or iPad. It is just plain easier to read the ebook. I have bought ebook versions of books on my shelves for that reason. Never thought I'd say that, but it is true.

"In all cases, the Church is to be judged by the Scripture, not the Scripture by the Church," John Wesley

Posts 466
Butters | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Sep 4 2013 7:50 AM

Wow, GREAT responses everyone.  Now I really feel like I'm from Mars.  I suppose to some extent I'm querying a highly self-selected group, since all or most of you are prolly long-time Logos users, and early adopters.  

I do own quite a few Kindle and Logos ebooks (beyond some OL resources) - and I have to say that I have a very hard time getting much out of them.  

I was thinking about this last night (because, again, I want to like them), and about why this is so.  And it suddenly occurred to me (in addition to, or in extension of, what I wrote above) that there is an issue I've been unable to articulate and only half understood.  

And I think it may be this:  it seems to me that ebooks are particularly linear; they are very much like the old-time scrolls actually, which I would also find exasperating to use.  

And perhaps this is why:  I rarely read in a linear fashion (unless it's a novel or a poem).  When I first pick up a book, I rifle through it to get the general idea.  I might start with the conclusion.  Then go to the introduction.  Then maybe quickly visit the concluding and introductory paragraphs in some key chapters, making copious use of the index and sometimes the table of contents.  Then I might read the key argument in one of the key chapters.  I sort of jump around too, and there's a serendipity to this that invariably lands me into the key passages of the book.  It's like a sixth sense.  

All of this^ I do very rapidly and it seems to me best done with a physical book, which I can physically flip around and wrestle with and know where I am, etc.  It's frankly difficult to "rifle through" a digital book.  

By doing so, I determine how I want to use the book, the extent to which I am going to read it, etc.  And in the meantime, I get to know the book quite well, far better than if I had picked it up and read it through linearly.  Moreover, I now know my way around the book, and know where to find things; and now, if I want to read it carefully, I have context for everything I'm about to read.  

I once had a tutor who trained me to do this - and I suppose it's thoroughly second nature now.  

Anyway, when I look at a digital text I am utterly lost.  It's difficult to even get a sense of "where" one is in the book.  One wonders whether there will be another like Augustine, who might have his or her own "tolle lege" moment with an iPad.  

Also, I do wonder if some of this perhaps has to do with how different people learn, the singular way in which each of us is wired.  Admittedly, I'm a little weird about some things:  for example, much to my wife's chagrin, I don't like having anything in drawers or in closets.  If it's in a drawer, it really doesn't exist as far as I'm concerned.  I need to have everything "out in the open."  I know many people who are like this but I am a bit extreme.

To address some specific things (I am talking about general ebooks below, NOT OL study): 


Portability:  I can certainly see the advantage of this; but for me that is more about complementarity than replacement.

Saving money & space:  This isn't a high a priority with me; however, I do understand the importance of this.

Highlighting:  While I think it's neat that I can highlight something and that it's immediately linked to my other devices, I really don't see how this is an improvement over a pencil and markers.  Indeed, there's a huge absence for me, because I have a complex way of marking things up that is entirely my own; and it makes the book mine and roots me in it, as if I'm at home in it, in such a way that no electronic highlighting can mimic.  And over time these books develop a kind of provenance. 

Notes:   Similar to highlighting, I really don't see how "notes" are any different from how I make notes in a book - or, take down notes directly into Scrivener on my laptop?

Searching/linked:  This is tougher for me and I am very ambivalent about it.  I do understand why the complex sorts of searches for Biblical study are important in the context of textual research:  grammatical searches, phrases, etc. - but again, I am talking about general ebooks

I make use of indices and especially my memory; and there is something important about this, especially the latter.  I far prefer following St. Aquinas' footsteps who had nearly everything in his head, so he was able to query and link and so on in a far more sensitive manner. 

I think that sometimes people confuse the immediate linking/searching of information with actually absorbing, remembering and thinking. (There's an marketing video for Noet where some college kids are given an assignment to look into the history of how the word "Logos" has been used differently through time. The young man promptly brings up his laptop and swipes it a bit and out pops a historical perspective on the word. To me this is nearly farcical.)  


Again, I do see the near revolutionary value of linked OL texts and lexicons, commentaries, and tools.  I just question what it is we gain - and lose - when we adopt digital books entirely.  

Anyway, I shall think about it some more.  

In the meantime, here's an interesting WSJ piece with which I have some sympathy.


~Butters Smile

“To love means loving the unlovable.  To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable.  Faith means believing the unbelievable.  Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” ~Chesterton

Posts 667
Jonathan Pitts | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Sep 4 2013 10:02 AM

These discussions aren't new.

Posts 466
Butters | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Sep 4 2013 10:07 AM

Jonathan, thanks for posting that - I've been looking for it actually.  Absolutely hilarious Big Smile - but in my opinion, not really parallel to what I'm saying.

By the way, Rosie I know exactly what you mean - I meant to mention that.  


~Butters Smile

“To love means loving the unlovable.  To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable.  Faith means believing the unbelievable.  Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” ~Chesterton

Posts 667
Jonathan Pitts | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Sep 4 2013 10:28 AM

I read almost exclusively digital books now. I started just after I bought some extra bookshelves, which now stand empty.

I prefer reading from a screen than a book. And it is great to have my whole library with me wherever I go. 

I do still feel a bit lost not knowing how far through a book I am, although occasionally this gives pleasant surprises—finding that the remaining 120 pages are all indexes and notes. I usually do the digital equivalent of flicking through the book before reading it—checking how many pages there are, how many of those I actually need to read, and what that looks like on the resource scrollbar. 

Logos does a pretty good job of showing you where you. However, I have just finished reading a Kindle book in a dictionary format and lots of q.v. cross-references but no hyperlinks at all, not even from a table of contents—frustrating. 

Posts 466
Butters | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Sep 4 2013 10:34 AM

Interesting, thanks Jonathan. 

I suppose it's likely that developers will find ways of making the reader better aware of "WHERE" in the book one is - as well as providing other sorts of "cues" with which to better navigate them.    

It's perfectly possible that a few years from now I will find ebooks preferable - in part because advances have made them incomparably richer and easier to navigate.  And that I will feel the same way about all my books as I now feel about my LSJ, L&S, Middle Liddle, etc - which seem relatively useless and inert to me now.  


~Butters Smile

“To love means loving the unlovable.  To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable.  Faith means believing the unbelievable.  Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” ~Chesterton

Posts 667
Jonathan Pitts | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Sep 4 2013 12:32 PM

The other thing we haven't got yet is a digital equivalent of the bookshelf that gives you to personalization and visual access the wood and paper do.

Posts 1752
JoshInRI | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Sep 4 2013 1:39 PM

Wow, what a neat post.

I miss my printed books but they do age, whither, turn colors etc.

I wish Logos offered both print and electronic versions of some or most books.


Posts 18916
Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Sep 4 2013 8:28 PM

Jonathan Pitts:

The other thing we haven't got yet is a digital equivalent of the bookshelf that gives you to personalization and visual access the wood and paper do.

According to UserVoice, this is planned:

Posts 9947
George Somsel | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Sep 4 2013 10:49 PM

I was brought up to never mark in my books and only handle them with clean hands.  I tried it a few times and found that it simply didn't work for me since there wasn't enough room to put any truly meaningful comments.  I would go back later and wonder why I had marked particular items.  I have no difficulty writing notes to my Logos resources—as prolix as I want.  If I later find that I have changed my mind regarding something and wish to change it or add to it, no harm is done to the resource.  Dog-earing the pages was anathema.   I don't need to worry about a bookmark falling out so that I have to scan through the book to find where I was (I read quite a few books at a time).  Logos always remembers my last spot in the book.  If I had to accommodate all of my resources in print form, I would need more room; moreover, moving would be a considerable chore.  With Logos I simply pick up my computer and throw it in the car.  It's better for the back too.  I still like print books, but I'm moving away from them.  If I can find it in Logos, that's where I buy it.


יְמֵי־שְׁנוֹתֵינוּ בָהֶם שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה וְאִם בִּגְבוּרֹת שְׁמוֹנִים שָׁנָה וְרָהְבָּם עָמָל וָאָוֶן

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