Why I'd Still Choose Paper Books Over Digital Books

By , Contributor

Whenever I’m asked to write tablet reviews, I get anxious. There’s the Google Nexus 7, which runs on pure Android without third-party bloatware. If the rumor mill is true, Google is now working with Samsung on a high-end 10-inch Nexus tablet with 2560x1600 resolution, putting the iPad’s pixel density to shame. In other news, Amazon just announced the New Kindle Fire HD with 4G LTE and 32 GB of storage.

Then of course, there’s Apple’s venture into the phablet market with the much-awaited 7-inch iPad Mini, currently slated for an October release. Each new update on the tablet front has admittedly fostered some desires I otherwise wouldn’t have. I’m anxious, because there might just be that one day that I won’t be able to stave off the temptation to put yet another huge dent on my credit card.

Just like other bibliophiles, I had mixed emotions about the advent and popularity of the tablet. On one hand, I’m a pseudo-treehugger and see the merits of a paperless world. I also recognize the convenience of tablets, especially now that my storage space for books is rapidly shrinking. In addition, I get excited about the thought that I can actually manage my own business phone system, bring less stuff with me, or generally organize my life better if I just download apps on an easy-to-tote device.

On the other hand, I’m also your typical romantic; poring over vanillin-like scented pages under a soft glow is a scenario I find most appealing. That said, the romantic in me always wins out despite all the advantages of having a tablet. Yes, I know I can have the best of both worlds, but I’d rather not get distracted. Open your tablet, and it's mayhem waiting to happen—it’s like setting yourself up with multiple dates on the same time and day with all the apps that are just waiting to be clicked. But there’s more to this sentimental bias of mine. Here’s why I very much prefer and love good old books:

The Beauty of Waiting

Walking into my favorite second-hand bookshop, I chanced upon the 100th anniversary edition of Peter Pan. You know those books that you hold off buying because you just have to have the perfect copy? It was a beautiful midnight blue book illustrated by popular children’s fantasy book illustrator Michael Hague. I have never watched the Disney version nor read an unabridged version of this well-loved classic, and here I was holding a hard-bound special edition at more than half the price off!

The dust jacket was a bit wrinkled at the ends, but these small imperfections even made it more perfect for me. Who had held this book in his or her hand, I wondered. I fancied how a little girl must have stared wide-eyed at all the beautifully drawn pictures, which seemed ready to fly off the pages. I wondered if she also felt the urge to soar off like I did, holding this unexpected treasure in my hands. I opened the first page, and guess what I found? The book was a signed copy by Michael Hague! How could this be? After trying to swallow this realization, I rushed home and opened Google to verify if this was indeed Hague’s signature.

My excitement was compounded by the fact that I had to wait for my PC to boot up and my browser to load. I’m glad that I didn’t have a tablet with me, which I could instantly open at whim. There is inexplicable pleasure when you have serendipitous moments like this with a long sought-after book. Tell me, can this encounter ever be replicated by an e-book or app downloaded to your tablet?

The Pleasure of Sharing

I love used books because you never know what you’ll find inside. Aside from a well-crafted tale (and the rare author/illustrator signature), you can discover another person’s thoughts and bookmarks. It is a journey into another mind. I shy away from books that have no spaces for my own musings, but I can tolerate quick scribbles on margins, the occasional underline, and sporadic interjections like “this!” and “wow!” It’s amazing to pick the mind of someone from another place or another time, and sometimes even argue with him. It’s like sitting with a new acquaintance and discovering that you share the same passion for ideas, sentiments, and stories.

It’s not just sharing thoughts that matters to me; it’s also sharing a whole book itself. There’s this book I love called The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. If you haven’t read it, please do and prepare your heart for a beautiful slaughter. After reading it twice, I decided that it was too glorious to keep to myself. You can’t repress good news, just as you’d hate to be the one to break bad news; you’d absolutely grow crazy with wanting to impart ecstatic postulations.

After speaking to a friend from far away who was currently in throes over his business, I decided to send off my cherished copy with the usual fanfare of a thoughtful note. It took a few days for the book to reach him, but was he ever surprised. He loved the book, as I knew he would, and I have since bought another copy to keep for myself and maybe, someday, give away again.

The Desire for Fragrance

I swear, the printing presses are all involved in a conspiracy to make us bibliophiles even more addicted to books. Don’t you ever wonder what the pages of books are laced with that they must smell so good? Walk into any old bookshop and you’ll understand what I mean. Aside from the fairy dust, you’ll get a whiff of “old book” smells that stay with you happily ever after. One fateful day, I finally discovered the long-held secret when I stumbled through this Tumblr post. To quote completely from Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez’ Perfumes: The A-Z Guide (because it just seems like desecration of holy words if I don’t):

Lignin, the stuff that prevents all trees from adopting the weeping habit, is a polymer made up of units that are closely related to vanillin. When made into paper and stored for years, it breaks down and smells good. Which is how divine providence has arranged for secondhand bookstores to smell like good quality vanilla absolute, subliminally stoking a hunger for knowledge in all of us.

That’s 66 words of divine revelation. For me, this just proves that God knew what He was doing when He created books for mankind.

Gartner, a technology research center, says that paper books are being read less frequently now in favor of digital books. Presently, I doubt that digital is going to completely replace paper, but nostalgia still tells me to urge you to not deprive yourself or your kids the experience of reading pape books. It was depressing to say the least when I scrolled through these photos of bookstores that have closed down.

There is beauty in reading the printed word. Ask anyone who has ever held, slept with, and breathed in a book. Reading a book, not the digital kind, is a story on its own.


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Nancy Perkins, a full-time mommy wannabe, has been a freelance online writer for two years now. She loves sharing information on health, business, technology, fashion, women's issues and motherhood. Nancy lives life to its fullest each day and is dreaming of retiring on an island she will someday own.

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