When Formats Collide

I know it’s not a new topic of discussion, but recently I’ve been seeing a lot of talk about digital vs physical media. Books, comics, movies, television, music. Most people seem to have a very distinct preference for one or the other.

But some people, like this geek girl, hover somewhere in between.

For a long time, I was emphatic that I did not like ebooks. They don’t feel like actual books, I couldn’t put my fingers between the pages, they don’t smell like books, etc. And then I bought a Nook Color, primarily for use as a tablet, rather than an ebook reader. I picked up a couple of free ebooks, because, well, they were free, and I started to understand the benefits. I read fast, and I typically carry around two or three books at a time. One ereader is lighter than three books, and it can hold a lot more than just those three.

Okay, so I was won over by the idea of ebooks What about other digital media? I’ve never had a problem with digital music, since I’ve been ripping my cds to use on my ipod for many years anyway. The only time it frustrates me is in the car, where I’m limited by a lack of ipod compatability. But digital music can be burned to cd, and maybe that makes all the difference. You don’t have to choose between physical and digital versions. You can have both.

Television and movies are a different story though. The legality of converting dvds to digital videos may be questionable, but it’s doable. It’s more difficult to go back however. Quality, format, file size, etc, all cause problems. And when I want to watch a movie, but don’t know which one, it’s a lot more fun to flip through a stack of dvds than search through computer files. I understand and fully appreciate digital video though. It’s convenient, easy to store, takes up less space, and you don’t need a tv and dvd player to watch them.

Next up, comics. This is a hard one, because I really enjoy physical comics as well as digital ones. I’ve said it before, but I didn’t grow up with comics. So digital comics have given me the opportunity to try things I wouldn’t have otherwise. New, old, everything in between. And once I figure out what I like, I can buy the physical versions. I don’t need (or want) physical copies of every comic I read. I’m a completionist, I would drive myself insane. But there are definitely some that I want to be able to hold, page through, and hand to other people to read. All of which is hard to do with digital comics.

The debate between digital and physical is hard. Both have advantages and disadvantages. When I’m at home, I prefer to hold a book in my hands, dig through my dvd collection, spread my comics out on my bed. But when I travel, nothing beats loading up my tablet with digital versions of my favourite media and not having to carry 50lbs of books.

I’m a tech addict, and technology changes quickly. VHS evolved to DVD, and DVD is evolving to Blu-Ray. How do we know the format we use to read digital comics and ebooks will still be around in a few years? Paper isn’t going anywhere. And you know what else? When you’re hiding from a thunderstorm that knocked out your electricity, you can still pull out a pile of comics and let Batman protect you from the storm.

So digital vs physical… I’m split. Sometimes I like one, sometimes the other. Some nights I want to curl up with a book, some night I want to turn off the lights and read a comic or two before going to sleep. If I had to make a decision between them, I don’t think I could.

And really, why should anyone have to choose?


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