Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Do We Need Paper Books Anymore?

I recently cleared out 2000 books from my home and donated them to various organizations.  There were just so many books that my family had read and would never read again.  It was a difficult mindset to get into, but I finally concluded that my house is a home and not a library.  And you wouldn’t believe how much room was freed up after this large scale purge!  To this point, does society need paper books anymore?  After all, there’s a widespread availability of e-books—and a treasure trove on free virtual information accessible to the wired world via the internet. 

Truth be told, I like the way a book feels in my hands, as I am lounging on a hot sunny beach during winter vacation.  I like the weight of the book, and that the thickness of the book diminishes as I dive deeper into the tome.  And I like the reward of flipping a page to mark my progress, and the passage of time.  And in terms of aesthetics, I love falling in love with the cover of the book that I am about to read for the very first time.  I also like bending back pages, inserting a bookmark, cracking the spine, and the new book smell­­­­­­. 

But does reading have to be tied into the tactile sensations that I’ve mentioned, even though it’s meant to be a cerebral experience?     

Reading on my smartphone, tablet or e-reader doesn’t give me the same thrill as reading an old-fashioned paper book.  I don’t like that the thickness of the device never varies, or the feeling of being a hamster on a wheel, as I make unchanging progress in the book.  Although I see that the page number is advancing as I read, the antiquated part of me wants to see and feel physical evidence, in respects to a thicker front half of the book, and a thinner back half!  To me, these are the “perils” of an e-reader, which won’t be faced by the newest generation—born with an iPod, instead of a silver rattle.

I’ve concluded that despite the tactile experiences that I enjoy while reading paperbacks, I’d much rather peruse e-books and do my research online.  The idea of visiting a library and treasure-hunting through stacks of books for information, just holds no appeal to me.  I simply don’t have the time or interest.    After all, an e-reader fits an entire library of books, magazines and newspapers into the device itself—and is just as portable as the average paper book!  Why would I stop by the bookstore, or visit the local library, when I can download the latest books in seconds or minutes?  And must we really chop down forests of trees in the pursuit of paper books?

So back to the original question: Does society need paper books anymore?  P­­aper books are so engrained in us and our collective unconscious, that I doubt that they’ll ever fully disappear from society.  As a people, we’re sentimentalists and historians—and books will live on, if only for a memory or a relic.  However, in the industrialized world, virtual books are the tidal wave washing over our bookstores, libraries, workforces, schools and families.    So to answer the question, no, society doesn’t need paper books anymore and they’re quickly on their way out.  And we’ve now arrived at their final chapter…

What do you think?  Does society need paper books anymore?  Do you read e-books, paper books or a combination thereof?  Please leave a comment below!

This article was written by me, Jenna Em, and also appears in the Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 issue of the Huffington Post!

14 comments:

  1. Huh, funny we both posted about books today! http://www.babygiveawaysgalore.com/2013/01/30-day-read-to-your-child-challenge.html

    I believe that we still need paper books. There will be plenty of people who won't give up the tactile experience. I have an ereader but still read paper books too. Though I am buying more ebooks than paper back.

    But especially for children, paper books are best in my opinion. Kids spend sooo much time in front of electronic devices that I want my kids to have as much non-screen time as possible.

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    1. Too funny, Kristen! I'm going to check out your post!

      Jenna

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  2. I definitely read a combined there of... I love love love the smell of paper books but love the convenience of ebooks. I have to purge some books at my house also we have way to many!

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  3. The only books I read these days are children's books. I like these in a paper copy so my son can flip pages, watch popups in the book, etc.

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  4. my husband kept saying he will not get into using an ereader as he will miss the feel and the smell of a new book when he opens - guess what - he is addicted to his ereader for the last 2 years. So he is settled and happy with an ebook.
    I on the other hand like to have printed magazines, like to have reference books, coffee table books. Kids under 8 need printed versions - these can be and will be stored and referred for many years. Novels and autobiographies on ebooks are great - I even remember once my husband carried two bulky novels to the subway as he was going to finish the first one and will need another for the return journey.

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    1. Daystar003, thanks for weighing in on the issue! My kids still have a ton of books, but they also read virtual books. They love the animations in the ebooks.

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  5. I need books! I need to be able to dog ear a page, to slowly flip through, to highlight pages.....I'm old school

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  6. We will always need paper books, I hope they never leave. Ebooks are nice for space saving but it sure gets frustrating when the ebook doesn't work efficiently or problems uploading books which has happened for us. My husband loves book...there's just something about flipping through the pages. I prefer them too.

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  7. I still love books even though I have 2 e-readers but I only use these to get free books.
    And we donate about 1000 books to various places before we emigrated to Canada just bringing the books we knew we would read again and again

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  8. Jenna this post makes me so sad. I wailed out loud.
    Yes, I love the internet for information on things. but I think doing away with real books isn't a good idea, especially if you have children.
    People will read things if they're there. And people who read are better educated than people who aren't.

    I grew up in a house where there was a room called "The Library". It had (and still has) thousands of books in it, and I hope that someday I have that many books in mine for my children.

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    1. Aww, Nicolthe pickle, didn't want to make you sad!

      Regardless of the books we donated, we still have hundreds of books for the kids. They are literally found in every room in our house. We kept their favourites and have Dr. Seuss, Robert Munsch, Shel Silverstein, S & J. Berenstain & more!

      Unfortunately, they are not very careful with the books and they quickly become well-loved books.

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  9. I love books, but I also love technology!! All the points that you listed about reading an actual book is what I love about books as well. When I first bought my house, I started thinking about making a library someday. It became a dream of mine! I will have to wait until I have a bigger house though, because my little 2 bedroom house won`t work. I have started collecting books the past few years for my library, and have a few boxes full already. So because of this dream I have, technology won`t win (not this time anyways), I will never give in and read a book on a device

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  10. I love books, but I also love technology!! All the points that you listed about reading an actual book is what I love about books as well. When I first bought my house, I started thinking about making a library someday. It became a dream of mine! I will have to wait until I have a bigger house though, because my little 2 bedroom house won`t work. I have started collecting books the past few years for my library, and have a few boxes full already. So because of this dream I have, technology won`t win (not this time anyways), I will never give in and read a book on a device

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  11. I am a total bookworm! Like as in a book a day!! I donèt own a e reader but am not very interested in getting one. I love books, and love the feel of having a book in my hand. My fave is the smell of a very old book. You cant get that smell from a old e reader! I think society def still needs books. Books are forever, ereaders could eventually break or a battery could die, that wont happen with a book!

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