Wednesday, February 25, 2015

In Defence of Paper

I'm pretty certain it won't surprise you to learn that I'm a voracious reader - in fact, most writers I know read as much as time permits. And although I've long since given up resistance and bought an ebook reader, my favourite kind of book is still one that crinkles when I turn a page, that gets dark rings on the cover if I rest my cup of tea on it, and that gets that peculiar, nose-tickling musty scent when it's been sitting on the shelf for a while, feeling neglected. No kindle, nook, iPad or what have you can give you the same tactile reading pleasure as a real, physical, printed paper book. 

PILE OF BOOKS - ClipArt Best

So today, I'm going to give you ten reasons why The Book (Paper Edition) is a great thing, not to be forgotten...

1. You can hold it in your hands...

A paper book is a physical phenomenon that can be touched - you can stroke it, you can hug it, you can even throw it into a corner or rip it up and burn the pages, depending on whether it meets your approval or not. 

2. It sticks around...

We are a very technical society - so much of what we do and what we say is recorded in little noughts and ones somewhere on a circuitboard, invisible to the eye. I've heard it said that in a couple of centuries our time will look like the dark ages, because all that data will be in an unreadable format. I'm not sure if it'll go quite that far, but be honest, who (ok, who over a certain age) doesn't have the odd backup floppy disk lying around that will surely never be read again? This will never be a problem with a printed book, now will it?

3. You can browse in an actual bookstore...

I'm all for the convenience of shopping from your armchair, but I don't really want Amazon to be the one who decides what I might or might not like to read. I like wandering through a bookstore, picking up random books that catch my eye with a great cover, a good title, or perhaps just the way they were placed on the shelf by a well-meaning book store employee (and not sent into my mailbox by a you-might-like-this-algorithm). In fact, I've discovered a lot of new authors just like this. It's also nice to be able to read a couple of pages before you buy a book, to see if the author's style suits. 

4. You can show off your library...

And by show off I don't mean to anyone else, it's sufficiently satisfying (if you ask me) to show off to yourself all the great favourites and/or classics you've read. Bookshelves make a house cosy and more home-like, if you ask me - I'm fairly leery of people who have no visible books lying around in their homes. I mean, really, what do these people do with their free time? Maybe it's writerly curiosity, but I'm quite fond checking out other people's bookshelves. You can tell a lot about a person by seeing which books have creased spines, which are carefully dusted and what shelves are sorted by (are you an alphabet or a genre sorter?). 

5. Physical books have character...

...or at least I like to think so. New books have a certain feel to them, a cleanness of uncreased paper, sometimes the vague scent of ink not unlike that which you get from a freshly printed newspaper (if you still read newspapers in physical form, that is...). With older books, you can sometimes get a feel for the previous reader(s). Are there many dog-eared pages? Did someone make notes, or highlight, or maybe just very faintly underline things in pencil with lines so light you have to tilt the page a certain way in the light to be able to tell? Are there coffee stains on some pages, or is there, perhaps, a squashed bug preserved in paper prison for all eternity? Did someone carefully fold the beautifully designed dust jacket of a hardback book and tuck it between the last pages for safekeeping? Or were the flaps used to mark the pages read? 

6. Books have great covers...

(link to Amazon) artists like Michael Whelan (my personal favourite). There's something to be said for a large, hard-bound book with a well designed cover. I know ebooks have the same covers, but still, I think the impact of art is bigger in physical form. 

7. Friends can share the joy...

You can give people your favourite book, you can wrap it up as a present, put a bow on it, write a dedication that will stay in the book no matter what. It's even possible to lend someone a book or give your books to charity once you're done with them.

8. Books make you focus your attention...

Occasionally I read ebooks on my mini iPad (which I adore, btw). While this is all well and good, though, and there are soooo many advantages to having thousands of books at your fingertip (no I don't have thousands of ebooks in my kindle library, but I do have a couple of hundred...), I do find myself flicking between books if one is a bit slow in a chapter, or skipping over to the Facebook app to check what people are up to, or...well, you get the picture. With a physical book, this temptation ceases to exist, and you can pay proper homage to the written word. 

9. You can write things on paper...

And yes, I'm one of those people who write things into their books. I even (GASP!) use a highlighter on occasion. Mostly, though, I stick post-its onto pages with my little notes (or even just plain multi-coloured post-its). And yes, I do know you can add notes and highlights to ebooks but I really, really don't like doing that. 

10. But really, what's important is the reading...

because reading is essential to the writer (there's even articles that say so - it must be true!). Reading teaches, inspires, wakes up the muse. Do you know any writers who do not read? I can't quite believe there are any. 

So go on, read. Buy a paper book if you're a tactile sort of person (like me), or download the ebook if you don't care about that, but buy a book, sit down and read. It'll make you a better writer, even if (worst case scenario) it only teaches you what not to do in your own book. 


  1. So true Tessa! Even though I prefer to read on my iPad (where I can control the brightness and contrast) I tend to buy hard copies of my favorite books as well. I love to marvel beautiful sentences, great ideas and how everything fits together.

  2. @Charlotte LOL I do that, too! If I really like something I bought as an ebook, I'll go get the physical version to...ahem...hold hands with ; )

  3. My biggest complaint with ebooks is that it's a pain in the butt to lend them out. My friends used to joke about "Liv's Lending Library", but then I bought a kindle. I know it's possible to lend books from Amazon, and I've even done it a few times, but it's just not as easy as throwing a paperback in my purse on the way out the door to meet a friend.

  4. Couldn't agree more!! All my favourites have to be bought in paper form too. But in defense of Kindle, it's much easier to carry across the world to SoKo. But my library looks so lonely and sad out here!

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  6. I always prefer to read books in my tab. I always bear it with me and when i get some leisure i like to read a new book or complete remaining one. When eagerness increase of knowing the unknown things reading is my best choice i think.