While I was discussing something about free ebooks available on the internet, some of the responses I received was the perceived tendency against e-reading was because you don’t get the same feel or smell as a “real” book. “E-books and audiobooks shouldn’t be called books,” many had said to me.
You don’t experience the book if you don’t touch it and it is not a REAL book if it wasn’t on paper.
Well, this is the short history of books and the evolution of literature :
As you can see, the only thing similar to it was the written words. All of them can be classified as reading materials or books depending on the age you’re in. But point is, the change was accessibility and convenience. The evolution of reading materials that surpass it’s limitation was the one that made literacy flourish in this age or we’re still reduced to the limitations of oral literature and the ability to read was again rendered insignificant in our daily life.
Most of my frustration with the idea of disowning e-book format for not being a version of a book was this tendency to take reading for granted.
Again, you’re taking your ability to read for granted by selectively thinking that the physicality of the material (format, the feel of a paper, the look of it, the smell of it) was worth more than its content. It was also like shaming those with inability to appreciate a proper hardcover book beneath them.
I was raised with a hunger of knowledge. I wasn’t raised to be materialistic with it. I like that reading have given me an ability to reach more sources of information than the limitations I was given as a person. I became addicted to reading not because I like the taste or smell of touch of a book. I read because I can’t stop reading.
And it made me disappointed that many who called themselves book lovers can’t seem to consider themselves as readers of words.
I am certain a lot folks with a form of sight disability that they couldn’t appreciate printed words existed in average book format would think reading was a hassle for them. As if it wasn’t enough, audiobooks wasn’t available as easily as normal printed books and that even cheapest paperback always printed in small sized font that made reading exhausting for them that they quit all together. We all eventually will grow old and suffer ageing.
Why do we still insist on this short term appreciation of a printed book? There are thousands of them and it come with all form and format. Printed books can be yellowed, dirtied, flooded, worn, destroyed, pulped and land-filled. And most importantly, not everyone can afford ALL of them.
I love physical books myself but since I am a writer, I appreciate a blank notebook than I do with printed books. I have a fetish with completely blank unlined books. It’s not about the feel or the smell either. It is just the only thing “new” in electronic form can’t replicate was the gorgeous plain possibility of a blank book.
Which also why in Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief the scene where Max painted the pages of a book white for Liesel seems more poignant to me.
I love words. I see beauty in words. I love the smell of a fresh new plain book when I broke through the plastic but I love the blankness of it more than I do with most of the books I have in my own library. I live to write. Its a form of expression that I love more than just saying everything out loud.
I just wish being a book lover means more than just owning the physicality of the material so you can enjoy its feels than its content.