How good is your reading memory?

This weekend I popped over to ARe to buy some books and I apparently bought 2 books I’d already read and the sequel to a book I apparently loved (5 stars!) but can’t remember at all. I have a vague feeling of overwhelming angst and pain when I think about the previous book but nothing stands out as to the plot and characters.

Now I could put this down to having a bad reading memory but the thing is, that’s not really true. I actually can remember details and specific scenes from many, many, many books. When I stopped to think about this fact, I realized that most of the books I remember are physical books. I can look at my shelf of print books and remember details about a lot, if not most of them. I can remember exactly where I was reading some of them. I have vivid memories of the books, reading them, and their plots.

The problem comes in when I try to remember many of my ebooks. Even the books I really loved seem vague and blurry. I can remember feelings in general, such as I really liked that or I didn’t. I can remember some specifics about books, in fact I can remember quite a few ebooks. However this is a small percentage compared to the memories I can recall for my print books.

I think what it comes down to is simply I remember the physical print books more. I remember the covers because I’m used to seeing them more, either carrying them around or on my coffee table/shelf. I don’t have those visceral memories about ebooks. I have the same memories about most of my ebooks – either reading on the computer or on my ereader. I can remember covers if I see them but I don’t remember what the cover is for a particular book.

Since I read m/m almost exclusively as ebooks, I just don’t remember the books I read anywhere near as much as the other genres where I’m still reading print/physical books. I was really surprised by this when I figured it out.

Is anyone else the same way or do you simply remember everything you read, regardless of format?

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23 responses to “How good is your reading memory?

  • Chris

    The print books I have on my shelves (that I’ve read) tend to be books that I loved and wanted to remember to reread. Basically, after a year or so (at most), I’m tabula rasa with most books and can experience my favorites as if I’ve never read them before! It doesn’t matter if they’re print or e.

    I absolutely can’t shop for ebooks without having Calibre open to search to see if I already have the book.

    • Kassa

      Oh see I can remember almost every single m/f romance book I read (most are print) and it’s been years and years since I read an elizabeth lowell or nora roberts romance. Yet I can’t remember the Carolyn Gray book that apparently I loved to the depths of its soul and read last year, or was it earlier this year? Gah.

      I may have to start doing that with Calibre so I don’t rebuy books. At least ARe is pretty good about letting you exchange if they see the duplicate book in your library.

  • Tam

    I’m usually pretty good. E-books same as print, not counting yaoi because I never remember the titles unless they are really odd. I don’t often buy the same book I already did, and the couple of times I did I begged the publisher and they gave me the book I meant to buy (say rebought book 4 and meant to buy book 5) but I had proof I’d already bought book 4 on their site.

    I’m not so good with titles. Someone just “liked” a couple of my GR reviews and the title meant nothing. Although once I saw “oh, that was that book by so and so” it all came back. I might need a trigger (usually their names or a brief one line synopsis “werewolves, Montana, demons chasing them” and I’m good to go. (Not that I’ve ever read a Montana werewolf demon book – someone get on that.) Sometimes when I look at how many books I have in GR I’m stunned that I remember as much as I do.

    • Kassa

      I think you could be a computer, just saying. I do agree that sometimes publishers or retailers are good about letting you exchange/return, ARe usually does that for me when I’m an idiot. It just sucks because I didn’t realize until I started reading them and all of a sudden I realized oh yea, I’d read ‘em and bought ‘em before.

      Oh I’m horrible with titles, but I don’t think that’s anyone’s fault. Try searching for any title and 90% of the time you get a long list of books with all the same title. So I don’t think any reader can be expected to remember titles that well.

      If I read my review or someone’s mini-summary, it helps. Sometimes that’s when I really value the book report type reviews that kind of summarize everything that happened in more detail. Then I can read the sequel with enough information.

  • Amanda

    I actually think you have hit upon something here because I have also come close to buying the same ebook before. When I first got my reader I was still new to m/m and I bought and read ebooks quickly and some did not always stay with me. I think if I hadn’t been so new to m/m I might have been more selective and then maybe some ebooks would have been more memorable.
    I adore ebooks but print books just seem easier to recall for a number of reasons. I am a bit of a cover-nut and when reading a paperback I would always look back at the cover MANY times as I read the book, its a bit of a nuisance to try and do that with an ebook and so thats one less experience I have with an ebook. Also I am always able to go quickly to my favorite parts when rereading a paperback but with an ebook you need to make sure to use the bookmarking function to or it takes a minute to get there in an ebook. All in all its like you said ebooks just don’t have those same visceral memories

    • Kassa

      See, exactly! Thank you.

      I think we’re similar in our reading experiences. I love to look at covers and I think just the act of seeing the cover repeatedly helps. For example there is a book I actually like but have only read about 90 pages out of 400 of for various reasons (it’s a good book but I keep misplacing it about the house). I read something out of that book probably a few months ago but I can tell you in minute detail what that book is about and the exact cover just from seeing it so many times. And I haven’t even finished it.

      I like the ease of reading and storage for ebooks but they just don’t have the same impact for me sadly.

  • HJ

    What a relief your blog is! I have been thinking about the same issue recently. I know from doing revision for exams that my memory is pictorial (is that a word?) – I would recall in the exam the place on the page where the answer was, and see the list of facts or the shape of a paragraph. I wasn’t aware that I was doing the same with books, but I suspect I do – and it is impossible with ebooks. The place on the screen where a particular line is can change each time you open an ebook.

    I always read very quickly, but I suspect I read ebooks even more quickly. I just don’t seem to retain them at all! I’ll read a summary of a book, go to buy it, and find I’ve already bought it and read it. I just don’t do that with print books. I may not remember the detail of each print book I’ve read, but I certainly remember more than I do of the ebooks I’ve read.

    And because I read the vast majority of m/m books as ebooks, it is having a disproportionate effect on my ability to remember them. On the other hand, as long as I have my Kindle with me, I’ll never be bored as I can re-read everything on it!

    • Kassa

      Hello! Welcome and thank you, it’s always good to know you’re not alone right?

      It’s really funny you mention the exam thing because that’s how I used to remember things as well. I could remember which question was where and maybe the right answer but I didn’t always associate the question with the answer. Good for memorization but conceptually? I had to take more time.

      I do the exact same thing you do with books! I don’t seem to retain ebooks and unfortunately even more I don’t seem to retain much memory about m/m. I think it’s because, like you, I read them almost entirely in ebook format (or that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).

      You are right that we can just re-read the ebooks like we never have before lol.. money goes further that way right? Always a silver lining.

  • Tracy

    I’m the same way as you. I suck at remembering names of most characters – whether its ebook or print. But the stories themselves I remember MUCH more when I read in print. Why is that? I just can’t figure it out. Like Tam I usually need a trigger to remember which book or plot it was.

    Since I got my Kindle I think it’s been worse because when I buy from Amazon and download straight to the Kindle there are no book covers. It’s bizarre but that’s how I sometimes identify books and that’s what triggers my memory.

    In my case though I think it’s just old age. lol

    • Kassa

      Well it could be we’re getting old (bite your tongue) but I do think the way ebooks are delivered and read makes a difference. How often do you flip back in an ebook to re-read something? I used to flip back in physical books all the time just to re-read favorite scenes or check up on something I missed. Now with ebooks it’s not as easy so I don’t really bother.

      I do think there is a reason people usually buy their favorite ebooks in print. It’s still a way to enjoy a book more IMHO.

  • Becky Black

    Lets just say the feature on Amazon where it tells you that you bought that item on such and such a date has saved me from rebuying stuff before now. Covers are a definite help, I’ve got a good visual memory. But then they reuse cover art and I get confused. :(

    • Kassa

      Yes! They reuse covers, use the same titles… I swear it’s a conspiracy! Ok maybe the memory is just faulty but I don’t think books help.

      Great to know I’m not alone!

      • jeayci

        I’ve noticed this too, and it’s nice to know I’m not alone! I agree with everything you said (including the bit about age *ducks*). And I think there’s one more point you alluded to here that I think is also key: especially with m/m, so many covers are virtually identical. I think that may contribute a lot to it.

        I still flip back with my ereader (I’m always amazed by people who only seem to need a “forward” button on theirs) but not nearly as much as I did with paperbacks. That’s probably the thing I miss most about paper books, but it is so offset by all the space saving features of ebooks. Also, with a paper book you can clearly see how far into the book something is happening. Although you can see the % with an ebook, I don’t think that’s nearly comparable for sense of place.

        • Kassa

          Excellent points and I agree with them all. I currently use my beloved sony 505 for an ereader and it’s aging. It’s very slow (always has been but I love it anyway) so moving backwards is a bit agonizing it’s soooo slow. I tend to just read forward and check out the PDF on a computer if I need to go back. It’s a pain I admit and one reason I miss print books.

          But like you said the space issue offsets that and I continue to buy ebooks. I do think your point about reused covers is perfect. One of the things about ebooks is the same cover artists are used over and over so I see the same style and it makes the covers blur together for me. Not to mention the same men used all the time (have you see the adventures in photoshop posts by Stumbling in Chaos?)… *shudder*

          • Chris

            :)

            Good point about the visual sense of place in print that’s missing in ebooks, jeayci! My reader has a little slider at the bottom of the screen, so you can see where you are in the book, but it’s definitely not the same.

  • devonrhodes

    I have a great eye for detail (one would hope since I’m an editor)…but a *horrible* memory for it. I can’t tell you how many times I try to remember character’s names, the author’s name, the title… I’m lucky if I remember one of the above–the internet rocks for getting the rest of the info.

    But I somehow always remember plot points, little story details, situations, etc…and oddly enough secondary characters’ names. Covers tend to stick with me, but if I can’t remember the title it goes with… *shrug*

    As far as print versus electronic goes, my physical bookshelves only hold my all-time faves. Those I remember, but the thousands of other print books I’ve read and passed along eventually get just as jumbled in my head as the e-ones.

    • Kassa

      That’s really interesting and a definite difference. Great with details but a bad memory for details. I love that you remember secondary characters! Sometimes I do but honestly I rarely remember character names even as I’m reading. I always always pull up the blurb before writing a review so I remember the details like names and places.

      See I think I need to get rid of some books (well I know I do) because my physical shelves, of which I have 4 bookcases, are packed with just about every paperback or hardback I’ve ever bought or read. And that’s a lot.

      I guess the physical vs. ebook is just for some of us visual peeps.

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