Appreciating the tangibility of books

Photo courtesy of Hasit Dewan

I probably stand in the minority of people that includes mostly people over the age of 40 who aren’t the biggest fans of online books. Us “old-timers” continue to hold on to our physical copies, refusing to use digital novels for fear that once we do, we can never go back. Until this semester, I never owned an eBook or even an online textbook. I always made sure to rent or find a physical copy. However, finally using an online textbook has opened my eyes to the perks of digitization.

Over the course of 2015, Amazon reported higher sales in its eBook division than those of physical books. The eBook industry as a whole has flourished over the past few years due to the widespread popularity of specialized eReaders such as the Kindle and Nook, as well as the more general tablets. In fact, more and more schools are allowing students to store their textbooks and readings on tablets and computers.

My sister’s elementary school, for example,  has actually started a pilot program where the students are given tablets with the textbooks on them rather than physical copies. While programs like this may not currently be very widespread, it can only be a matter of time before almost everything goes digital.

Now, maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but I don’t think a digital book could ever fully replace a solid, tangible one with pages you can physically turn. I understand the practicality and ease that digital libraries offer. I mean, being able to carry around hundreds of books on
a single iPad is much better than having to lug around a bag of only a few. However, I
believe physical books simply offer some things that a digital copy cannot.

Agonizing over the one or two books to bring on a roadtrip or vacation has always been an annoying part of planning. However, the simple act of having to choose forced us to really figure out not only what exactly we wanted, but also to commit the choice we made.
Even if we ended up unhappy with our selections, we were forced to stick it.

With an eReader, we can simply carry around our entire library. While definitely more convenient and easy, we lose that simple but powerful element of choice and commitment to persevere through a book. Thus not permitting us to thoroughly analyze a book and style of writing. We can freely switch between novels almost at whim, like flipping through TV channels.

Along with this, lie a host of other features we simply lose with the advent of digital books. Book signings and even bookshelves will become a thing of the past. I understand that I am complaining about the most trivial things. Perhaps I have trouble letting go, but being able to appreciate a nice library collection on a bookshelf or having a favorite author’s signature on a novel elicits a certain joy in me that I just can’t get from looking at a tablet screen.

None of my inconsequential gripes will change the fact that digital is indeed the future. While I will miss the old era, I understand and in fact can even embrace the digital age. Digitization will make access
to books and knowledge much easier for people all over the world, along with simply
allowing us to hold more knowledge at our fingertips.

I will miss physical books, but in the end I will learn to love the eBook.