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Should You Own a Physical or Digital Library?

Are you thinking of building your own library? If yes, what is the better option? Should you build a traditional physical library or a digital one? Let us list down the pros of both types.


Why You Should Build a Physical Library


The Complete Journey with Each Book – Nothing can compare to the ritual of going to the bookstore, scouring the shelves for the book you want, grabbing a copy, and paying for it at the register. And it doesn’t end there. You remove the plastic wrapping (if there’s any), admire the beautiful cover, take a first look at the table of contents, embark on the adventure of the book, and feel bittersweet emotions after reading the last page. On top of that, your senses are engaged as you hold the book in your hand. You feel the texture of the paper, smell it, carry the book's weight, and hear the flipping of the pages. You don’t get that exclusive experience with an e-book.

 Heaven. I mean, yours truly in a book store. (Don't ask about the hoodie. I was sick at the time.)

Heaven. I mean, yours truly in a book store. (Don't ask about the hoodie. I was sick at the time.)

The Atmosphere – Enter a library and you immediately feel it, the collective energy of books filled with millions of words, colourful backgrounds and history, and imprints of the authors who gave their lives to write each and every book. Reading a book in a library makes the experience more divine. Reading a book in your living room, in your car, or in the office just couldn’t provide the same experience. It’s like working out in a public gym versus a private one. The former is a better experience. The energy of the other trainees feed you as you train just like the presence of other books in shelves complement the activity of reading.

Highlighting and Writing Notes – I used to not write anything on my books as I felt it destroyed their purity but now it's the opposite story. My books are adorned with lots of highlights and scribbles. I like marking my favourite sentences and paragraphs so I can spot them easily when re-reading the book. I also like writing down my thoughts and notes on the pages of the book itself, further personalizing them and adding my own imprint to that of the author’s. Similar to item #1, this is about the involvement of the senses. While you can make highlights and add notes in e-books, it’s a different experience altogether.

Author Signatures – If I bump into Jim Butcher, I’ll have him sign my copy of Ghost Story. If I bump into Robert Greene, I'll make him sign my copy of Mastery. If I bump into Adam Grant, I'll get him to sign my copy of Originals. If I bump into Grant Cardone, I'll make him sign my copy of The 10X Rule. Oh wait, he can't. It's on Kindle. If I bump into... okay, okay. Now you get what I'm saying.


Why You Should Build a Digital Library


Slightly Cheaper – Since no trees were harmed making e-books, they're cheaper. Books also go on sale, like $0.99 sale on Amazon. You can take advantage of that. And better, some books become free even for a limited time, like $0.00 (100% savings), you know. You BETTER take advantage of that.

Portability – As much as I would like to take at least three physical books with me everyday, it’s not convenient. What if it’s my dinosaur book, which is hard bound and heavy. If it’s Arguably by Christopher Hitchens, it will take up a lot of space. But with digital books, I can bring my entire collection with my iPhone, iPad, or my MacBook Pro, taking all my magic tricks, I mean books anywhere I go. 

 Walden and Hyde (and Other Short Stories)

Walden and Hyde (and Other Short Stories)

Searching, Highlighting, and Adding Notes – While the experience of making highlights and adding notes feels more personal with physical books, with e-books you can export your notes to your e-mail and that can come very handy. Plus, finding topics and keywords is easier with the Search function in e-book readers. No more relying only on the table of contents and the index for finding pages about your chosen topic, the Search function takes care of that.

Purchasing – As long as you have an Internet connection and a valid payment method (of course), you can purchase e-books in a flash. Whenever I want to read a book right away because I can no longer endure the wait, I’ll look it up on Amazon and within minutes the book is already in my iPhone. Yes, I will be missing out on the journey of going to the bookstore but sometimes the books that I like are not available in the bookstores I go to, especially old titles. Also, some are only available online (and free to boot) like my book Walden and Hyde (and Other Short Stories)


What is the best choice? Should you go for a physical library or a digital library?


Personally, I choose both. Some books I own physical copies. Some books I own digital. It’s a dream of mine to have both types of libraries in my own home.

But it all comes down to a matter of preference. What do you want? If you lean more with the experience and attachment to books, I say go for the physical library. If you’re always on the go and you prefer convenience, the digital library is a better suit for you. At the end of the day, the act of reading still wins over whether you read a book on paper or on a screen.

It’s no surprise that readers are better people. Having experienced someone else’s life through abstract eyes, they’ve learned what it’s like to leave their bodies and see the world through other frames of reference.
— Lauren Martin