I’ve always had a thing for physical books – new or old. The crisp white pages, an unscratched cover, the fresh black ink indicating the promise of a new adventure.
Or my personal favourite – stepping into a library or even opening an old bookcase and inhaling a strong musty fragrance that is the signature sign of yellowed pages, dog-eared corners and a well-loved book. Remember the Sex and the City movie scene where Carrie gets into bed with a book and Big disbelievingly asks her, “Are you the last person in New York still taking out library books?” and Carrie replies, “I love the smell.” She brings the book up to her nose and goes, “Mmmmm” appreciatively and then holds it out to Big to inhale the scent too. He obliges and sarcastically says, “Ohhh – that’s an oldie.” Yeah, I am like Carrie too. I have a thing for old books.
Books have stories to tell – not just within them but also of their ownership and how far have they travelled and who they have met to eventually end up in your hands. A book gathers a piece of each person it passes through the hands of and becomes enriched by different adventures and experiences, thereby becoming a historical masterpiece in itself.
Having said that, I cannot negate the importance of e-book readers. Ever since I started reading e-books about 6 years ago, I’ve been amazed at how easy it is to find hundreds and thousands of books at my disposal. Thanks to so many free and cheap e-book resources, you can download any book at any time. It’s convenient, it’s fast and you can do it in your most comfortable PJs. Plus, you don’t have to worry about physical storage either.
I personally do not own an actual e-book reader but read almost entirely on my smart phone. I enjoy the flexibility, convenience as well as the privacy that e-books allow me. I love that I can travel with my personal library anywhere I want without adding any extra weight to my handbag. I like that I can press delete immediately if the book doesn’t catch my fancy. The fact that I can get a huge variety of e-books that I wouldn’t have been able to find in a bookshop also thrills me.
Granted that the process is highly impersonal. It’s definitely not the same as visiting a bookshop and getting excited and a little bit awed at all the books lining the bookshelves from the bottom of the floor to the top of the ceiling and wishing you had the money to buy and read all of them. Neither can it be compared to lurking in the narrow aisles of a library, settling yourself comfortably on the floor and hoping to finish a book right there and then. Hugging a warm book and feeling its comforting presence as if it were an old friend is incomparable to the cold screen of any e-book reader.
Reading from a screen also doesn’t quite evoke the charismatic power an actual book does to move you to tears or drudge up a pent-up emotion. Nor can you admire the cover and let your tactile sense feel its matte, glossy or embossed texture under the palm of your hand. Or allow your auditory sense to enjoy the rustling sound of turning pages. No more borrowing a book from someone and treating it with such care as if it were a fragile baby. An e-book can quite literally, deprive your senses of life’s simple pleasures.
However, I am going to admit I am more comfortable reading an e-book nowadays than picking up a book because of its sheer convenience. I have developed a faster speed in reading e-books and I also like that I can highlight, make notes and do several other things in an e-book reader. But if given the choice and an abundance of space and financial resources, I would definitely choose physical books for their comforting presence and the fact that they give a home charm and lots of personality.
What is your opinion? Do you prefer actual books or e-books? Please post your thoughts in the comments below. 🙂
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