Probably once a week, I get a question about whether eBooks or print books are best on a boat. Not just about The Boat Galley Cookbook, but other books as well or just as a general question.
Let me start by saying that to a certain extent it’s a matter of personal preference. Don’t just do what I do — think about how you use books and what makes sense for you.
My answer: both. They both have their place on Barefoot Gal.
The obvious advantage of eBooks is that they take up no extra space or weight and they’re usually cheaper than a new copy of the same book. Print books, on the other hand, can often be found used cheaply or even free.
Reference books. In general, we prefer print books for reference materials. Anything that’s going to help us troubleshoot or fix something, such as Nigel Calder’s or Don Casey’s books (links are to posts I’ve written about both). Both of us like to actually flip though pages when we’re working on a problem or trying to figure out how something works.
And yes, in the category of reference books, I prefer paper copies of cookbooks. Again, as I’m looking for something new to make, I just like flipping pages.
If you’re considering getting eBooks for your reference books, I’d recommend getting one first and see how you like it. Don’t get me wrong — I know a few people who love having digital copies of their reference books. But I know far more who don’t like them and prefer print copies. Hence trying one before you spend a bunch of money!
Pleasure reading. For pleasure reading — whether fiction or non-fiction — we both read quite a few eBooks (and eNewspapers). The one advantage with print copies is that you can trade them with other cruisers, whereas trading/loaning is much more limited with eBooks. Consequently, the idea of “free” print books can make them worth the space and weight.
However, you can get many classic books for free in electronic formats and there are various services that provide daily notices of newer books that are being offered for free or very cheaply for a limited time (BookBub is one I use; there are many others as well).
The one other difference that particularly applies to pleasure reading is reading in the sun. Both Dave and I love to sit in the cockpit and read, and this can be hard with eBooks as we both use the Kindle app on a regular tablet, as opposed to a Kindle. Sometimes the glare makes it impossible to see the screen. We originally decided not to get true Kindles (which you can read in direct sunlight) because we needed them to do numerous other things as well. As prices keep dropping on bare-bones Kindles we’ve talked about possibly getting one just to be able to use it when sitting in the cockpit.
Bottom line: For Dave and I, the question of eBook or print tends to be how we’ll use the book. Things that we read straight through are great as eBooks, while books where we jump around or look something up are better in paper. And we always have a few print books to trade when we see something in a book exchange that we’re really interested in.
What about PDFs? Print them or just keep them as electronic documents? It depends. They tend to be reference materials, but many are short and thus easy to refer to electronically. Consequently, most of them we simply keep on our tablets and call up when we need them. But there are a few (my list of cooking temperatures, for example) where I print a copy and post it in a convenient location.