Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Paper or Plastic?

“I would rather have a hard copy, if that’s okay.” This is from a new AP recruit wanting the summer reading text How to read Literature Like a Professor in book format rather than the PDF version I found on-line. Curious, I asked why. Her response? She had difficulty connecting with the on-screen type. Not what I expected from eyes way younger than mine. I, of course spout off about how much I prefer hard copies to e-copies as well because of my need to connect sensory-wise and as I’m talking, I’m flipping pages and smelling them and listening to them and when I finally notice my student nodding and edging toward the door, like she’d really like to leave because I’m a looney lady (more than one student has commented on me being a bit crazy), I hand over the book and wish her a great summer.

I am a looney lady when it comes to books–hence the Book Booster thing I do. Books aren’t just a pasttime or a channel of information, they are an introduction. Ahem, a new quote from moi:

A book in hand is a friendship in the making.

Beyond making a new friend, there is joy, a celebration of the senses holding a book in hand. I’m talking honest to goodness REAL paper-in-hand book. I do so enjoy paper, maybe that’s why I always answer “paper” instead of “plastic” at the store. Perhaps it’s because paper comes from trees and trees come from the earth and holding a book bound in paper produces more connection to the world around me.  I have little or no sensory connection to my plastic e-reader even though it’s a book in hand.  Oh oh–I feel the looney lady coming on and before I go on about trees, books and their connection to the world and mankind, here is my list of reasons for preferring a book of paper when reading:

1. Smell: that inky pungency stimulates my imagination to anticipation

2. Hearing: the flip-swish of pages signifies my involvement and commitment and helps me to further escape

3. Taste: no, I don’t lick the book, but reading a paper book whets my appetite for setting aside time to open up the pages to fall into another time, another place, another person’s story

4. Touch: there has got to be a study out there concerning the connection between the tactile aspect of reading and brain synapse when communing with a book–I am so much more involved when I am holding the book instead of just listening to it by audio or thumbing up a new screen. Think about this: glass does not conduct electricity, which means no synapse boost. Plus, when I see my book lying on the bed, table, chair it beckons me to pick it up, so there must be a some kind of magnetism involved.

5. Visual: perhaps the most notable because of the cover has all those colors and interesting bits to feed my eyes and mind, and then, of course, there all those illustrations and photographs and drawings sometimes waiting inside.

I’ve shown this video before, yet it definitely illustrates the visual appeal of books.

Reading is definitely a sensory experience for me.  What about you?  Paper or plastic?

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11 thoughts on “Paper or Plastic?

  1. I understand what you are saying – but I have come to the point where I prefer to read a text-only work on my Kindle, rather than a paper book. This is the e-ink, black and white Kindle. I find it book-like, but lighter, easier to carry, and I can put my whole library into my pocket. Now I tend to read in whatever little bits of time I can grab – which is hard to do with a book.

    Still, that’s just me. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great post. I will always love actual paper books. There is something magical about holding a book in your hand that a Kindle just cannot replicate. However, I did finally cave and purchase a Kindle. I love it for it’s convenience. It makes reading when I’m traveling on the train a lot easier. Also, I really like that the library now allows you to borrow e-books.

  3. I love this post. I sometimes wonder how people can go through life without ever reading a book. I know however that people are wrong when they say books stores days are numbered! Too many people prefer hard copies. I just bought my first digi mag and I hate it! I convinced myself it would be cheaper and save space but in the end I’ve asked a friend to go to the store and buy me a physical copy.

    • I canceled one of my e-magazines because I didn’t have the same experience of flipping back and forth between pages. Scrolling is not the same, is it? I do like convenience of e-books, especially when traveling or waiting or passing those odd minutes. Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. geekybooksnob on said:

    Your book loving soul speaks to mine. My thoughts exactly.

  5. Yes, yes, yes! Paper books are always the best, they are just so comforting, especially now we are getting to the dark nights. When people offer me e-books to review, I always ask if they have a hard copy as I will always read those faster and be able to wave around for extra advertising.

  6. Paper, paper, paper! I read a lot of e-books, but mostly for convenience–of getting the book, not of carrying! If I don’t want to wait for something at the library, I’ll often buy or borrow the ebook instead. For me, it’s mostly about disconnecting from technology and immersing in the story. I’m online/on a computer all day every day for work, so setting the device aside when I read is nice. 🙂

    For school books, in particular, I strongly prefer paper. I can recall printed words much more easily than typed. I’ve only used ebooks for school a handful of times and never liked it.

    • All very true reasons to get fingers on paper instead of glass–screen scream. I have days where I force myself to get back on the computer for writing projects after having been on the computer most of the day. Paper, paper, agreed paper!

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