I have an ongoing debate with my partner about books. Specifically, about which is better…a physical book or an e-reader. I guess this is an argument that only book nerds can have. And yes, that describes us perfectly.
I bought her one when they first hit the market many years ago. At the moment, I believe she’s on her third one. She uses them so much she wears them out. But it was a good purchase. I mean, she loves the thing. Carries it with her everywhere, tucked snugly into a side pocket of her purse. If she’s stuck somewhere for more than five minutes, the e-reader comes out and she’s entertained. I think, at the moment, she’s has close to one thousand titles stored on it.
I get it. It’s easy to carry, holds hundreds of titles, and can go anywhere. It can also be argued that an e-reader is easier on the eyes. The screen brightness can adjust for the environment and the font size can be made larger or smaller. Hell, you can even change the font itself.
Despite all this, I still like my books. I like the feeling of holding a physical book in my hands, the weight of it, the feel of the cover in my hands, the texture of the paper between my fingers. And yeah, I’m one of those people who likes the smell of books. I love to crack open a brand new book and take a deep breath of that virgin paper and ink. But I don’t discriminate. I also love the smell of old books…that musty, well-worn smell that comes from age and sitting on a shelf for years. Walking between the shelves of a store selling used books is like therapy to me. After ten minutes I feel rejuvenated and eager to read everything I can put my hands on. Same thing happens when I walk into a library. They all have that comfortable odor to them. I’m surprised I haven’t seen a specialty candle call “Olde Bookshoppe” for sale somewhere.
When I’ve worked in Communications offices, one of the great highlights was when the paper vendors would come visit. It was like Christmas…boxes and notebooks full of paper samples. All the different weights and textures, colors and smells. Pure bliss.
I know, I know…physical books are cumbersome. They can be heavy. Bulky. Hard to carry around. Your arms can get tired holding it up to read. Whatever. And sure, you can make an environmental argument against printed books. Save a tree and but an e-reader. But yet, I persist.
I’m one of those people who carries a backpack. Or as my partner refers to it, my man purse. I always have a notebook packed away, a handful of pens, maybe a few thumb drives, and I always have a book. Sure, it adds little bit of weight, but I look at it as a little more exercise. Right? And it’s just as easy to whip it out (the book) and keep myself entertained in a waiting room or sitting at a table in a restaurant.
I’ve had this discussion with other people and have found an interesting distinction – writers tend to prefer physical books, while non-writers lean towards e-readers. Of course, this was a completely unscientific study. I just ask a bunch of people which option they preferred. But it was unanimous on the writer’s side. We all want to see our words printed on a page.
I think writers put more stock in words and how they’re presented. We don’t just tell stories, we’re painting pictures with words, and because of that, we want them to be properly presented. Sort of like a painter wants their art to be displayed properly in a gallery, not on the screen of a phone or tablet. Presentation is everything.
I’ll admit, I do own an e-reader, but I also have a firm delineation between what I buy physically and electronically. If it’s what I consider a beach-read, you know, paperback material like pulp fiction or mainstream fiction, I buy it on my e-reader. If it’s a book that I’m excited about, that I plan to read more than once, and especially if I can get a first edition, I go with hardback.
And I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I like to display my books. My bookshelves are like trophy cases, as if I’m a big-game hunter (or in this case, big-game reader) and I want to show off my successful safaris. I know, it’s silly, but it makes me happy.
My partner and I have agreed to disagree on this…although it comes back up whenever I return from the bookstore with a heavy bag in each hand. I’m like a junkie in need of a fix. I need the smell of paper filling my lungs and fresh ink flowing in my veins.
At least I can’t overdose on literature.