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Physical books vs e-books

I recently conducted informal surveys about e-books on two readers' forums, and realised that while there is a generation of readers out there who grew up with computers and feel perfectly at ease around them, even they still prefer to read a physical book rather than an e-book. Various reasons were cited: you can take a book anywhere, books are cheap, it hurts the eyes and causes headaches to read off a computer screen, etc. etc. When I looked at the responses in-depth and asked a couple of more pointed questions, what became apparent was that the real reason for preferring physical books to e-books was that books are personal and computers are not. These readers preferred books because they loved all the different textures, smells, paper, typefaces and bindings and the sensation of turning the pages. You can never get as close to a laptop, PDA or e-book reader as you can to a book because the computers render each book identically and require you to push buttons to turn a page, and they don't give off the heady scent of ink, paper and glue (and sometimes age) that physical books do.

While I do read e-books (I even sometimes take my laptop to bed with me to read) I tend to agree with these opinions. There is something infinitely more exciting about opening a new book than opening a new computer document. For starters, computers have no discernible odour, except when they overheat, and a smell of newness which quickly disappears. I love the scent of books, and while (as I said) I do read e-books, I only do it if it's impossible for me to get the book in physical form.

Which do you prefer?


Lee said…
I have to admit that though I read online, I tend to print out what I really want to read more 'sensuously'. But I'm keeping an open mind, waiting to see what developments in new generations of ereaders will bring. It's really too early to assess their influence, likewise the changes in publishing and reading that the internet is effecting. Probably, however, it will be less of an either/or choice, but different 'devices' for different purposes, different situations.
Bibliophile said…
Thank you, Archana. If it made you want to read more, then its purpose is achieved.

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