How physical books ‘provide a much-needed respite’ from the world that eBooks and audiobooks can’t touch

HALIFAX, NS — For all you book lovers out there, is it audiobooks, eBooks, or paperbacks for you?

I still love my books. In my midlife, I hang on to my hardcover Nancy Drew books from my childhood. As a child, I read each one many times and inside the cover, in my childish script, I wrote who gave me the book. They brought me so many years of happiness and thus, I can’t bear to part with them.

It turns out, I’m not alone. Ami McKay is an American Canadian novelist, playwright and journalist who now lives in Scots Bay, NS Her debut novel, The Birth House was a #1 bestseller in Canada.


Bestselling author Ami McKay, who lives in Scots Bay, NS, doesn’t think eBooks or audiobooks will ever fully replace physical books. – Contributed

McKay says she enjoys and uses all three book formats, but “I’d say that I read paper books more often than eBook and audiobooks,” she admits.

“I really love the tactile experience of reading on paper – from being able to turn the pages to sticking multiple bookmarks between the pages so I can re-read favorite passages,” she explains.

She also loves sharing physical books with others.

“Last fall, I installed a Little Free Library in my front yard so I could share books with my community.”

Different ways for different purposes

McKay feels the drawbacks with physical books are the strengths of the other formats.

“Paper books take up lots of space and can be heavy to cart around,” she points out, adding that she prefers eBooks for research.

“When I’m working on writing a work of historical fiction, I store eBooks related to the project on a tablet along with historical documents and photos.”

When travelling, it’s audiobooks for McKay.

“Audiobooks are wonderful traveling companions,” she says. “It’s so nice to fall into the world of a book while walking, gardening, or taking a road trip.”


“It’s so nice to fall into the world of a book while walking, gardening, or taking a road trip.”
— Amy McKay


Some of McKay’s books are available as audiobooks.

“I’ve had the pleasure of narrating two of my works for the audiobook versions and it’s given me a whole new appreciation for the format,” she adds.

As far as McKay’s concerned, physical books aren’t going anywhere.

“I do think we will still be reading physical books fifty years from now, although our relationship to physical books may change,” she says.

“We are reaching a moment of truth with technology and discovering that we need to moderate the use of smartphones and our screen time in order to keep our brains happy and healthy.”

She feels “physical books can provide a much-needed respite from all that.”



Grazing over titles

Carolyn Pendergast of Tracadie Cross, PEI, is a recently retired high school teacher and teacher-librarian. She prefers hard copy books.

“I most definitely prefer a “real” book – a hardcover, if available, but a paperback is the next best thing,” she says.

Like McKay, Pendergast also likes the tactile feel of a book in her hands.

“I like to be able to turn back a page or two to check something I may have missed.”


Carolyn Pendergast of Tracadie Cross, PEI, prefers hard copy books.  - Contributed
Carolyn Pendergast of Tracadie Cross, PEI, prefers hard copy books. – Contributed

The appearance of books in her home is another factor.

“I like the look of a book on my bedside table and I love a bookshelf. I love to graze over the titles… little reminders of stories, characters, places etc.”

For Pendergast, the only drawback to hardcovers is that can be a little unforgiving when packing for travel, while paperbacks are a little more ideal for bringing along to the beach.

“eBooks need to be charged and do not lend themselves well to such sacred reading places as the beach or the bathtub,” she points out.

“We spend so much of our time using technology that reading eBooks does not feel like an escape from the tech world.”


“We spend so much of our time using technology that reading eBooks does not feel like an escape from the tech world.”
—Carolyn Pendergast


She feels that shifting from a laptop or your phone to a real book means you are entering a different realm and a different experience.

Because she is not an auditory learner, she misses the visual element when listening to audio books.

“And the narrator’s voice is so important; if it doesn’t seem like a good fit, it can be most distracting,” she says.

“I used audiobooks a lot on road trips when my children were young. I seem to associate them with the car.”

books of the future

Like McKay, Pendergast also thinks people will still be attracted to paperbacks in the future.

“Holding a hard copy in your hands and turning the pages is part of the reading experience that many people desire,” she says. “It could be likened to candles — people still like to light a real candle even though we have battery-operated ones.”


Those who prefer eBooks must consider the amount of extra screen time this means.  - Storyblocks - SaltWire Network
Those who prefer eBooks must consider the amount of extra screen time this means. – Storyblocks – SaltWire Network

Her insight comes from her career as a teacher and librarian.

“Having worked with young readers for many years, a real book still seemed to be the preference as opposed to reading online. I remember purchasing several eReaders for the school library when they first became available. There was a novelty factor for a while but that dropped off over time. A paper copy, if available, was usually the first choice.”

She also feels her theory is also reinforced by what she sees at local bookstores.

“A visit to the local bookstore, and seeing people of all ages browsing, also reassures me that there are still many people who choose traditional books.”

Reading with mom

Pendergast recently lost her mother, Stella Fitzpatrick, after a brief illness.

“She had always been a reader and fostered a love of books in me,” she says. “She read to me every night as a child, and during her illness, I was able to return the favor and spent many hours reading to her .”


Carolyn Pendergast reads to her mother Stella Fitzpatrick, who died on March 22. - Contributed
Carolyn Pendergast reads to her mother Stella Fitzpatrick, who died on March 22. – Contributed

Pendergast read to her because her mother’s eyes had been deteriorating over the last couple of years due to macular degeneration. Small print was becoming difficult for her mother to manage.

“I was always on the lookout for large print books (new or used) for her and was unfortunately surprised at how difficult it was to find much selection,” she adds.

“With an aging population, I can’t help but think how many seniors are struggling with this. I would love to see a program in hospitals or nursing homes/communities where volunteers would read to seniors who have vision issues but would love to be read to.”


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