Paper or ebooks? Why the debate really doesn’t matter.

(And the one thing that does matter.)

I’m a big fan of electronic reading and I don’t get those who insist that paper is better.

Okay, I actually kind of get them, but still.

It’s hard for me not to think of my friends who insist on paper as probably the same kind of people who would have objected back when the quickly printed word was starting to take over the patiently inscribed word.

I imagine someone like them, back then, might have said something like:

“Oh, I do perceive that printing makes it easier to reproduce books as well as spread them, but how can one compare that with parchment, with the work of a dedicated scribe who has painstakingly copied it out, putting his very soul into it, each scroll a labour of love?

Would you, my friend, have me give up that delightful musky scent of a well-aged scroll for the soulless sameness of paper? Good God, no! None of these fancy newfangled inventions for me! I shall stick with the old, thank you very kindly.”

You see why I get it but don’t get it?

My own trusty Kindle.

That’s the kind of thing I hear when people make these arguments for paper over electronic.

Here’s a few of the common ones…

“Books don’t need batteries.”
“I don’t like looking at a screen.”
“I love that I can write in my books.”
“I like the feel of a book in my hands.”
“There’s nothing like that new [or old] book smell!”
“E-reading is great and all, but try it in a bathtub.”
“Haven’t you seen all the research for paper reading as way better?”

I could counter every single one of those points, and we could have a vigorous back and forth debate on this that of course wouldn’t end, but the truth is they really are good points, and I agree with every single one. But they fail to address the one little thing that happens to matter most…

Reading itself.

HOW you read is not nearly as important as the the sheer fact that you READ.

And in that light, whatever that helps you read, or helps you read more, is good. Anything else is aesthetics.

Who says you have to choose?

Not that there’s anything wrong with aesthetics. But if you consider that there’s a difference between people who read when they have time and those who make time to read, then it’s only to see how you can extrapolate that to the difference between those who read when they have everything lined up right (whether time, aesthetics or whatever else) and those who go out of their way to line things up so they can read.

It’s okay to be either, of course, but at least be honest enough to admit which you are. Don’t say you don’t have time to read, just admit that it’s not that important to you right now (or even ever). Nobody’s going to beat you or anything.

And go ahead: gripe about ebooks and sing the praises of paper. Just don’t you lament how hard it is these days to find the time to read, while you ignore one of the best ways available to read a lot more.

I love paper. Love it to bits.

But if you really care about reading, or about reading a lot more, ebooks are maybe your easiest option right now.

Your thoughts?


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