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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In Praise of the Printed Book

I like printed books and I cannot lie. I love the feel of the paper and the tactile gratification of turning the finished page. I enjoy the smooth, vanilla-like smell of old books. (Rivaled only by that of new leather, freshly cut grass and freshly-tilled earth after the rain.) I love the tumbling over piles of books we have strewn around the house when the overloaded bookshelves can’t hold any more. (I don’t like the collected dust though – allergies!)

The appearance of a printed book can convey so many emotions and expectations. New books look so pristine. A promise of the joys which are yet to come. Second hand books have a reassuring crumpledness of a story once-loved about to be enjoyed anew. Old spine-scarred books herald the return of favourite characters and stories to be relived. You can’t judge an e-book by its cover. The case is the same for each one.

A printed book does not rely on power for enjoyment. Just open the book and enjoy. While newer e-books have a longer battery life, if it does die then it must be recharged first. I don’t always have the patience to wait that long. Maybe I am a product of my generation but I am quite happy about that.

I relish the browsing of a bookshop to find the next story that is waiting to be read as opposed to trolling the internet for the electronic version. Though I usually loathe shopping centres, I find being in an actual shop filled with books to be exciting. So much to read and so little time! The other customers are there for the same reason – the love of reading.

There was a time when I wanted to own a little bookshop with floor to ceiling shelving, oversized old fashioned rugs and a massive comfy sofa in a corner for customers to read their new book and sip cups of tea. Though modern bookshops are not as cosy, all of the above is conjured up in my imagination EVERY time I set foot in one. (with no nosy computer programme pushing me to buy and force a book selelction on me.) Bliss.

 If I am reading while in the bath and I drop my printed book, I can dry it out eventually (and have done so previously). Drop an e-book in the bath… electronics and water do not mix well. One last thing. Print books will survive EMP and not set off security alarms searching for electronic devices.

I have tried e-books. I have a few, especially the free ones offered online, that I am not sure I will like but sound interesting and worth a read. I have even read some. But it is not the same. Though intellectually I acknowledge the fact that print book sales are declining (but then I also read they are bouncing back again) and e-books are taking over, I will always prefer print books and will continue to buy them until I have absolutely no option. Then I will mourn their loss.

In Praise of the Printed Book

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