If you’re an avid reader like me, that can consume multiple books in a week or even a book a day when you have some free time, then you will probably have an appreciation for the good old paper book. While I am a huge proponent of technology, which is my profession, and I can appreciate the ease of carrying digital titles on my iPad or Kindle reader for quick reading, when I’m out and about, if given the choice, I’ll still pick the old-fashioned book almost every time. Here’s why.
Originals Are Art
The written word is indeed an art form, but books take it even further. By looking through the pages of my 1946 special illustrated edition of “Pinocchio,” for example, it’s obvious that lots of love and care went into making the pictures as vital to the story as the words. Even the cloth cover — while dingy — brings a new layer to the tale. With the exception of a few brilliant digital stories such as “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” for example, e-books lack this essential literary element.
Books Are Harder to Alter
Censorship and books don’t mix, in my opinion. As we see more and more titles being cataloged digitally, however, we are forced to trust the power of Google and Amazon to keep our literature in its most honest form. A dusty old book from my parent’s generation can only be changed with a pen or highlighter, and that would be pretty obvious. Digital products, however, get changed all the time. My most recent download of Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim” was riddled with typos that were most certainly not included in the original manuscript, and it caused me to distrust “classic” digital products altogether.
Note: Print books are changed, as well, although not without more effort. A recent trip to Barnes and Nobles had me looking through a school-sanctioned version of “Pinocchio,” where the words “Land of Boobies” — used to describe the world of slacking off and never growing wiser — was changed to “Playland.” Censorship still happens on paper, especially in new editions.
A Book Offers an Experience
Books are a tactile experience. An e-book reduces books to merely words; a printed book maintains that a book is far more than words–it is an experience and an object. Books can be touched, they can be held, they can be smelled (particularly if they are old!). A book includes a cover, a binding, a slip cover, the texture of words or images impressed upon that cover, the pages, the deckled edges, the weight of the paper, the feel of turning a page. All of these elements combine to make a book what it is. They tell you a lot about the book, about its value, its uniqueness, its importance.
As devices go, a book is unique–there is nothing else quite like it. An e-book reduces a book to just its words, it strips out any sort of tactile experience and makes turning a page that same experience as playing a video game or shuffling music. It makes a book a whole lot less than it ought to be.
A Book Is a Single-Tasking Device
A book is inherently opposed to multi-tasking. There is very little that can be done while reading a book (apart from the act of reading itself) and the book never seeks to distract its reader. The book is a single-function device, a technology crafted and honed in order to provide the best possible reading experience. If we wanted to create a technology that would do reading well and do nothing else, I don’t know that we could do better than the book.
The e-book, on the other hand, tends toward distraction. The devices we use to read our e-books are rarely single-function or, perhaps more correctly, are tending away from single-function. They are created to do many things well, which means that the focus is not only on the reading experience but for gaming, browsing, searching. The iPad has read as just one of many functions and a relatively minor one at that. Meanwhile, e-books tend to be interactive, to have built-in dictionary searches, hyperlinks and other ways of drawing attention away from the text at hand. In all these things the devices and the books tend to distract, to offer far more than just the reading experience. They beep, they buzz, they disengage in a thousand ways.
A Book Does Not Require A Special Format, Software Or Device For Reading
Books can be read during daylight hours without any special hardware, access to the web/Internet, or even electricity. This can be huge when you’re off the grid, camping, fishing, or simply off the grid.
A Book Can Be Stored For Long Periods Of Time, If Stored Properly
the old-fashioned book, depending on the format, has been stored and are still available for use after hundreds of years. This is particularly true of ancient books, such as, old Roman Latin books or old scrolls and manuscripts from other cultures. Modern electronic media, such as e-books, have not been around long enough to have a proven track record for storage across long periods of time.
Research shows that children’s recall levels are significantly higher with old fashioned books, as opposed to e-readers. Books, also, enhance co-reading as it takes two hands to turn or fold a page, whereas it only takes one to click a button.
Looking now from an environmental viewpoint, it is greener to read printed books. According to TerraPass, a carbon offset business, it takes more energy to manufacture and then dispose of an e-reader, than a printed book.
One final benefit, is that printed books are better for doing research and taking notes. Printed books help long-term memory recall. Scientists, who experimented with students reading digital versus printed text, found that those who read digital text had to read and reread the material multiple times before understanding the material as well as the students who read the print text. With the click of a button, e-readers make it easy to get distracted and put your reading material down. The constant scrolling and the inability to physically highlight the text does nothing to benefit your long-term memory.