Yet another conversation about books (yes, we get it, you love books)

I found myself in yet another conversation the other day on the topic of books and e-readers.  It was between me and another avid reader.  Our common ground is we both love to read and often talk about what we’ve read and what we recommend to each other.  Where we find ourselves on opposing sides is when it comes to how we read.  She prefers her e-reader and I prefer a book.

This fellow avid reader handed her e-reader over to me so I could check it out.  Figuring out the device was easy enough but I immediately felt bereft.  Of what?  I didn’t know it right away, it was just something I felt, something lacking – almost like vertigo.  So I’ve thought more about this topic and will put down once and for all, why I choose a book.

note: I really want to stress that this isn’t about judging the e-reader.  I don’t hate e-readers and I don’t judge anyone who uses them.  This is an explanation for my friend and for anyone else who doesn’t understand why I choose books.

Feel:

The pages, the thickness of a cover, the weight and heaviness of a book – these all are part of the experience for me.  To feel the cool pages in between my fingers, to physically turn a page (a strong symbolic moment for me as I continue on through this journey).  The weight of the book in my lap as I consider what I’ve just read – these are all part of the experience for me, not just the story.

Look:

A smile forms on my face as I catch a glimpse of that huge, hardcover on my table.  A book looks like it has something to say.  It’s a mouth filled with conversation.  The bigger the book – the bigger the mouth.  In this sense then, books take on a personality.  Their size, girth, colour.  Like a dog takes on the look of its owner, books take on the look of the story within.  They have faces.

Sensory Experience:

My enjoyment of a story begins long before I read that first page.  It starts the moment I enter a book store.  I stare at the books who stare back.  I wonder which book will be the one I choose.  I reach out to touch a book, it is physically in my hands as I stare at its face, it’s being.  The smell of the book hits me – maybe it’s that new books smell or maybe it’s in a used book store and the oldness of it captures my attention.  If it is a book I’ve ordered I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa.  The book is on its way.  On its own journey to me.  When it arrives the biggest smile lights up my face and I rip open the wrapping.

I’ve said it before and will say it again – reading is more than just a physical act, it is a quantum experience, an activity akin to time travel. How I time travel is as important to me as the time travelling itself.

And I’m not the only one who feels this way.

“The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens”  is ripe with examples of research and studies done on the differences between reading on paper and reading on a screen – of which there are some major ones ranging from the tactile:

“Surveys and consumer reports also suggest that the sensory experiences typically associated with reading—especially tactile experiences—matter to people more than one might assume. Text on a computer, an e-reader and—somewhat ironically—on any touch-screen device is far more intangible than text on paper. Whereas a paper book is made from pages of printed letters fixed in a particular arrangement, the text that appears on a screen is not part of the device’s hardware—it is an ephemeral image. When reading a paper book, one can feel the paper and ink and smooth or fold a page with one’s fingers; the pages make a distinctive sound when turned; and underlining or highlighting a sentence with ink permanently alters the paper’s chemistry.”

to the impact on learning:

“Mangen thinks that students reading pdf files had a more difficult time finding particular information when referencing the texts. Volunteers on computers could only scroll or click through the pdfs one section at a time, whereas students reading on paper could hold the text in its entirety in their hands and quickly switch between different pages. Because of their easy navigability, paper books and documents may be better suited to absorption in a text.”

Again, I don’t think e-readers are bad.  I don’t judge anyone who uses them.  I am all about reading period and support any vehicle that allows people to read.  I think there is a place in this world for both books and e-readers to exist side by side.  This is my last post on the subject – I promise.

And yes, it is not lost on me that as you read this, you are reading it on a screen.  Hey, if I could write this all in a book and magically send it out in the world to appear in people’s houses, I would.

Does anyone know if there’s an app for that?

book-vs-computer - credit unknown

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About Geeky Book Snob

Learning stuff since birth. Happy introvert who likes socializing when she's not busy being an introvert who likes to read.

Posted on July 6, 2013, in General Musings & Thoughts and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. A “quantum experience” captures how I feel about reading an actual book. I’ll remember that phrase the next time I get in a discussion with an e-reader fanatic.

  2. I knew there was research out there!

  3. I completely agree with your thoughts about physical books. It is completely a sensory experience and the experience of walking into a bookstore gives me immense pleasure. That said, I still love my e-reader because it allows me to easily access library books that I might not otherwise have free access to plus saves me a trip to the library. If I actually purchased all of the books that I read, I would be broke.

  4. I was recently gifted with an e-reader, and it’s a neat gizmo, it’s already given me access to things I normally wouldn’t have access to, or would have to wait a really long time for. However, the reading feels more like “looking at a book” rather than “reading a book”.

    I need to sew a pocket or folder into the cover I bought for it. I usually take notes when reading (for the review), and use the paper as a bookmark. where am I supposed to put my bookmark now? 😦

    reading is a fully sensory experience for me. ink rubbing off on my fingers, the weight and shape of the book, the texture of the cover (the super shiny P.O.D. ones make my hands sweat TMI?), how thick the spine is, where I decide to shelve it. . . . fully sensory experience and i could go on forever about it.

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