Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Literary Debate of the Century (so far)

Today on Nathan Bransford's blog, his You Tell Me feature is taking on the debate of our generation: ebooks versus paper books.

Where am I in this debate? Firmly on the side of paper books, and I'll tell you why.

Paper books have been around for a very, very long time. They're one of the only things I can think of that have carried over from the Medieval Ages and earlier with barely a change at all. They are timeless. They smell incredibly good, and they can be oh-so-beautiful. For my high school graduation, my carpenter father made me two six-foot-tall bookshelves, stained to a rich, dark colour, and they are the central feature in my tiny bedroom (to my chagrin, they are almost full already - I foresee having to give away a lot of books soon...). These bookshelves, and the books in them, are without a doubt my most prized possessions.

I buy paper books (and a lot of them!) for more reasons than just the love of reading. For one, I love how they look on my shelves. The random heights and colours of the spines, the way I can stand in front of the shelves and look and them and think of the memories each book gave me. I also love how anyone who comes in my room and sees the shelves, and the piles of books stacked on my desk and floor and bed and chair, can see just how big a part of my life these books are. My friends, too, know they can come over any time and I'll be sure to have something they can borrow that they'll love. I'm like the book matchmaker.

There's also the sheer emotional connection you can make with a paper book. I have so many books that I just physically love, with their fancy-edged pages, gorgeous covers, and interesting textures. I am content to just look at some of these books for ages, just feeling them and flipping pages and just being with them. I probably sound kind of crazy but I don't care. Often these books just make me feel better.

You can't do that with ebooks. While I understand the argument that ebook readers save a ton of space, in my mind the space my books take up is well-used. I feel comfortable being surrounded by tons of books; if I didn't have books, what would my room look like? It would be cold and empty. I couldn't make that emotional connection with an ebook reader, either. Technology can never be as cozy and comforting as something real (I love my computer, don't get me wrong, but I do not see it as a friend the way I see my battered old copies of the Harry Potter series).

I know that a lot of people love their ebook readers, and I'm not knocking them for it. If it works for them, great. They'll probably have a much easier time adjusting to our increasingly digital world than I will. As much as I've embraced downloaded music and rarely buy CDs anymore, I just can't let technology consume my reading.

Paper books are holy, and I just can't let them go.

Where do you stand on the debate between paper and digital?

1 comment:

  1. Although I love to have ebook reader but just like you, I would prefer paper books.
    Nothing compare to its smell (new or old) and a great feeling when you hold it.