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Six reasons dead tree versions of books are better than ebooks

If you’ve spent any amount of time reading my posts, my Hordeling, you know that I’m an avid bibliophile. I LOVE books. Pretty much right up there after fire, electricity, the wheel and chocolate chip cookies, the printing press and books are one of the greatest achievements of the human race.

By putting little marks on a page, we can transmit ideas from one mind to another. Time and distance don’t matter. A book can do this wonderful thing across centuries and country borders. And the best way this is done, in my obviously correct and enlightened opinion, is through physical paper copies, and not ebooks.

I like ebooks. I have a lot of them. But there is something missing in the ebook reading experience that you get in the analog reading experience.

Which brings us to the list of six reasons dead tree versions of books are better than ebooks.

  1. Studies done by Maryanne Wolf, author of Reader Come Home: The Reading Brain In A Digital World assert that holding and reading a physical book helps with concentration and information retention. Turning pages creates a stronger mental map of the narrative, which helps in remembering the material.
  2. Eye strain! Staring at the bright screen of digital readers or computer screens can cause eye strain and / or headaches. Even with setting the brightness level there is still eye strain. There are some reports that say the blue light emitted by screens can disrupt your sleep. (Maybe that’s why I usually get less than six hours of sleep at night?) Reading analog books leads to less strain and let’s you read for longer stretches of time.
  3. Holding books, turning pages, and that new (or old) book smell – you just can’t get this experience with an ebook. By using more of your senses, it can give you a deeper connection to the source material. It has been suggested that you also have more emotional connection with the material this way too.
  4. Using physical books lets you interact with the book actively. You can use a highlighter and mark important passages, or underline them, or write notes in the margins. All of this can help you learn the material better and leave a record of your reading path through the books. You can use notation tools in ebooks, but it’s just not the same as with a physical book.
  5. You have a library. An ereader can sort your books alphabetically by title, or author, or genre. But half the fun of having physical books is sorting them and putting them on the shelves based on your criteria. It makes it easier to find books because you know where you put them. When you get a new book, then you get to revisit your library, sort of like visiting old friends, and shuffle things around to get the new book on the shelves.
  6. No distractions. Ereaders and computers have notifications going off while you’re trying to read, interrupting your reading. Books let you concentrate on the contents, immersing you into it. Sometimes you need to get ‘lost in a good book’, leaving the real world behind with all its problems and worries. A good book will keep you inside its world and let you relax.

There are probably other reasons for reading physical rather than digital but this is enough for now.

Oh, and whereas I find reason number four above completely abhorrent, there are plenty of people that benefit from being able to write in their books. More power to them. The idea of defacing a book makes me cringe.

So, my Hordeling, which do you prefer, physical or digital? Leave a comment and let me know.

If you’d like to support my efforts, why not buy me a chocolate chip cookie through my Ko-Fi page?

1 thought on “Six reasons dead tree versions of books are better than ebooks”

  1. Ah, where to begin? I could just say, “you’re wrong,” and leave it at that. To which you, or any reasonable person would reply, “you’re making an assertion with no evidence or reasoning to support it.” Which happens to be my reply to your constant assertion, “it just isn’t the same!”

    But that’s rather vague, so let’s start with your numbered points.
    1. “Studies done by Marryanne Wolf” say that you’re right. I have no idea who this person is, but let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. And while it seems doubtful to me that any physical examination can quantify what goes on in my mind while I’m reading, I have to admit that the ability to observe and monitor the quantity of neural activity has grown tremendously, I’m still not sure about ascertaining the quality of one’s neural activity during specific actions. Still, this is probably your best point.
    2. What kind of reader are you if you’ve never gotten eyestrain even from reading a bound book? What kind of reader are you if you haven’t learned to deal with that eyestrain? Your points about blue lights are valid, but ereaders are only one source of that. Have you unplugged all the digital clocks in your house? Given what you do for a living, you get a lot of blue light whether you use an ereader or not.
    3. You are seriously mistaken to discount the sensual enjoyment of an ereader. To turn it off and on, to navigate through a new book, to relate and arrange the books to each other. I still remember when I got my first Kindle. I was excited – it was a whole new way to experience a book. A different way, but a very good way. This is what you don’t get, ereaders and bound books don’t compete against each other – they complement each other! And you never got this, because, I believe, if I’m not mistaken, you never acquired an actual ereader, you just downloaded an app to your phone. Big mistake. Somewhat analogous to reading a bestselling novel in a series of excerpts in a magazine and never bothering to get the bound book.
    4. This is just plain wrong. Period. You can do anything with an ereader that you can with your bound book. Highlight passages. Dog ear pages. Write your own notes. And even better, for people like you and me, who would never deface a book, you can do all that and your book is still pristine!
    5. A brand new ereader is a library just waiting to be built. You can group titles together any way you like.
    6. Oh Puhleeze! Jim, you are one of the most intelligent people I know, and I respect you greatly, but in this you are just plain stupid. You do realize that you can turn on and off all the notifications on all your electronic devices? And if you choose not to, you will be just as distracted by these notifications while you are reading your bound book?

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