Why I Still Read Physical Books

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When I was younger, I was taught extremely well to respect books (by librarians, of course). I took good care of them, never dog-eared pages, and never EVER set them open, pages-down (which breaks the spine). In fact, I was so concerned about this as a child that I once wandered around a furniture store, righting all of the decorative books while my parents were shopping. I adore books, and I’ve grown quite a collection of them over the years.

So when the concept of an ebook was introduced, I was naturally fascinated, but I never dreamed of giving up the feeling of turning the page, the ability to flip to the end to see how many pages were left, or the satisfaction of closing the back cover when I was finished (not to mention the ability to throw a book across the room if there was a twist I didn’t like - I never did, of course, but it’s always nice to know that the option’s there). Although ebooks started as a fun trend, a way to lighten your bag and keep your page from device to device, they have grown into a booming industry. And what’s not to like? They’re about half the price (or even less!) of a regular book, you can bookmark and highlight and notate with the press of a button, and you can carry an entire library and bookstore in your back pocket, ready at a moment’s notice. But even as recently as last year, I was highly reluctant to adopt ebooks in any real measure. Sure, I had a couple,  mostly just in case I got stranded somewhere without a physical book, but they were usually books I already had physical copies of, that I knew I would always be in the mood for.

Why?

Some of it I’ve already laid out. The feel, the smell, all of that super nerdy stuff. But I also noticed an alarming trend in my ebook habits, particularly as I began to acquire more during my time in the military. I wasn’t finishing any of them. I have probably 30 ebooks now in my library that I bought, probably for full price, that I never finished, and probably never will at this point. When Facebook and Angry Birds is just a few taps away, it’s very difficult to get past the slow parts of a book. When you sit down with a physical book, you devote your entire attention to it, even if your phone is sitting right next to you. All of a sudden your mind is inside the world of the book, walking alongside the characters, even if they’re only doing something as boring as walking (I’m looking at you, Two Towers).

Even late adopters catch up with the wave eventually, and I’ve started to warm up to ebooks these past couple of months. Especially with the nasty weather that’s been plaguing the Midwest since Christmas Eve, it’s really nice to be able to move on to the next book even when I can’t get the car out of the driveway. It’s also got me finally notating and highlighting books like my English teachers always wanted me to. I can’t WRITE in physical books! It feels like I’m ruining it, and besides, what if I don’t like what I said later? What if I go highlighter crazy? (we’ve all done it more than once in a textbook, don’t lie.) But with ebooks, it’s no harm, no foul. There’s even some pre-highlighted text in the more popular books, things that other people have found interesting.

The problems are still there of course, and given an unweighted choice between the two (budget, availability, etc.), I would still choose a physical book every time. But the problems that I used to have with ebooks are becoming less and less, particularly now that I’m aware of them. When I sit down to read, I have the full intention to read a full chapter (or two, or three), and I don’t let myself do anything else until that intention is fulfilled. When it gets particularly bad, I sometimes even put my phone on airplane mode until the temptation goes away.

My point is that there are pros and cons of both ebooks and physical books, but with electronics and screens as an ever more present element of our world, it’s important to remember that physical books serve their purpose as well. Sit down and lose yourself in one today!