On e-readers vs. paper books

Over there on the side column of this blog, there’s a badge about pledging to read the printed word. See it? Well, on the page that I got the badge from, the follow paragraph is included:

We support the printed word in all its forms: newspapers, magazines, and of course books. We think reading on computers or phones or whatever is fine, but it cannot replace the experience of reading words printed on paper. We pledge to continue reading the printed word in the digital era and beyond. (source)

I agree with this statement wholeheartedly. I suppose it’s best that I do, since I put the badge on my blog. In any case, I fully believe that books, especially stories, should be printed on paper in ink. That’s how they’re meant to be read.

I have read books on an e-reader. It’s got it’s pros, I freely admit that. E-readers are easier to carry, take up less space, and the books are less expensive for the most part. E-readers have their cons too. The cons are harder to explain, but I’ll try – because they’re more important to me.

I miss being able to grab a book and flip to a particular page without tapping the screen a couple hundred times. I miss the smell of paper and ink. I even miss worrying about getting fingerprints on the cover or bending the pages.

Books are sacred to me. The books I’ve read electronically don’t feel as sacred because they’re stored there on that little piece of plastic. They don’t feel like mine. They feel like news articles I can read online that I have absolutely no control over when they’ll disappear.

I know I have too many books, but I don’t know that there’s any such thing as too many books.

I’m afraid for books on paper, though. Our society is all about compacting things into the smallest spaces possible. What if we start getting rid of books? Sure, the Library of Congress will still have their collections, but will the average household? I don’t think so.

Given all of that, I’ve started collecting old books. I don’t really want anything from later than 1925 and it has to be well-loved and well-read. No mint condition, afraid to touch things for me. I want to read books and wonder about the generations of people who might have read them before me.  That’s something enchanting about that.

So, I agree that there is nothing that can replacing reading words on paper.

Do you?

6 thoughts on “On e-readers vs. paper books”

  1. Sigh……How true. Well said and well written. I think I might print this out and read it again…..

  2. I absolutely agree! My bookshelf (and its contents) is my favourite thing in the world – I’ve been filling it with the books I read for as long as I can remember and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. There’s just something so satisfying about holding a solid, heavy collection of words in your hand, feeling the pages, dog-earing the ones you want to remember, bookmarking your place, and at the end of it all feeling such a weirdly strong connection to this inanimate object that has somehow just changed your whole perspective.

    Obviously there are benefits of e-readers, as you mention – the main draw being convenience. As a commuter I must admit that lugging around a translation of Dostoevsky isn’t exactly ideal, but I must also admit that I love lurking the reading material of my fellow commuters and showing off a little at the same time. It’s like being in a book club where we’re all reading something different, and it’s much harder to feel that connection when my fellow readers’ eyes are glued to screens instead of pages. There’s no stopping progress, I just hope that there are enough people like us in the world to stop printed books from becoming collectors items and keep people connected to the physical presence of the written word in this increasingly digitized world.

    1. Since I’ve posted this, and talked to people about it, I have found many, many people like us who are still so very connected to printed books. I have a little more hope for the future of the books I love. And that’s always a good thing.

      From pro e-reader people, the most common argument I get is that I can have so many more books with an e-reader. Someone told me that their e-reader holds 5,000 books. I doubt I’ll ever read 5,000 books. I’m much, much happier trying to find places for my few hundred books very much loved books (shelves, books, piles, under my bed, on tables, under tables).

  3. I came across your blog post today as to finding readers about e-books and paper books. I have been considering self publishing for a long time now. I’ve been trying to go the traditional route for quite some time. With the way traditional has been going recently it makes authors think about their options.

    I don’t know how you feel about self published books, but I find myself buying books from self published authors as long as they are in paperback. I just love the smell of the pages when they are fresh off the press.

    Thanks for letting me comment!

    1. I have no problem at all with self published books. I like books. I don’t particularly care where they come from. If they’re on paper and they look interesting, I want them. Simple as that.

      And thank you for commenting!

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