Before I start, let me say that I fully acknowledge and appreciate the convenience and portability that e-books offer. They greatly facilitate the ability to read anywhere, anytime, since almost everyone nowadays has e-book capability on their smart phones. Yet even though I have occasionally taken advantage of the nifty invention called e-books, I have both feet firmly planted in the “paper-and-ink-books-are-superior-to-e-books” camp. Here are ten reasons why (in a random order of importance):
1. Paper books age with you. No matter how many times you read a book on your Kindle or iPhone, it will always be exactly the same – new, perfect, ageless. You could read an e-book a thousand times and it would never age. Paper books, on the other hand, gain character the more you read them. The spine on my hardback copy of The Chestnut King by N.D. Wilson, for example, is starting to wear off in the exact places where my thumb and fingers rest. It always gives me a thrill when I see my books start to age gracefully – it adds a richness to the reading experience that no e-book (no matter how advanced) will be able to match.
2. Paper books allow you to create a personal library. For hundreds of years, a person’s private book collection was a clear sign of their level of education, their thirst for knowledge and evidence of a well-rounded mind. My book collection (somewhere between 300 and 400 volumes right now) is by far my most prized possession. It keeps on growing as I slowly collect more and more stories. Who knows how large my personal library will be by the time I die? While a person may collect a formidable number of titles on their Kindle or iPhone, only paper books allow the reader to truly create their own private library.
3. Paper books can’t be deleted. Granted, paper books can be burned, sodden, lost, broken, cut or trampled upon. (So can a Kindle for that matter…) Yet the one way that a paper book can never be destroyed is through accidental deletion. I have never spent a dime on an e-book for fear that the download would fail, my iPod would malfunction, my computer wouldn’t accept the file, etc. Although the argument could me made that a personal library could be destroyed in a house fire while a collection of e-books would not, just ask yourself which is more statistically likely: a house fire or an electronic device malfunction?
4. Paper books create an atmosphere of their own. While almost all e-books are exactly alike, the variety in physical books is endless! The feel of the paper, the smell of ink, the texture of the cover: all add up to create a unique textural and sensory experience as well as an imaginative/intellectual one. For me, the story of The Lord of the Rings is indelibly related to the size, color, feel and smell of my massive hardback copies. A good paper-and-ink book creates an atmosphere of its own, wrapping the reader in delicious familiarity as they read.
5. Paper books can become heirlooms. Enough said.
6. Paper books give a sense of progress and accomplishment as you read them. Almost all e-books are equipped with a little progress bar to let readers know how far along they are in the story. Yet the little dots on the bottom of the screen simply cannot impart a sense of accomplishment and visible progress like a good old-fashioned bookmark marching along the pages from cover to cover.
7. The search for paper books can be a true treasure hunt. For example, I searched high and low for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. I knew that I could have bought a Kindle version for 99 cents online, but I was desperate for a paper copy. I scoured every bookstore (online and real-life) that I could think of, yet no one carried the final installment of the Sherlock Holmes series. Imagine my rapture when (during my very first day in London, England) I walked into 221 b Baker Street and found a hardback copy smiling at me from a little shelf! I couldn’t stop smiling for hours. I’ve experienced similar events over and over again in my lifetime as I wander through garage sales, book stores, give-away piles, thrift stores and gift shops in search of elusive stories and have found treasure after treasure to add to my bookshelves.
8. Paper books feel like old friends. Again, no more explanation needed.
9. Paper books are often beautiful and unique. No matter how colorful the digital cover is for an e-book, digital books just can’t hold a candle to physical books when it comes to beauty.
10. Paper books have been around for thousands of years. The e-book has been around for roughly 50. While there is definitely a massively growing trend in favor of the e-book, I can’t help but think that paper books will be around for thousands of years to come.
I could go on and on, but I’ll stop now. 😉 What about you? What is your opinion regarding e-books and paper-and-ink books?