Praise Gutenberg! Luddite Explains Why She Returned to Paper Books
People are weird about books.
I was reminded of that truism today when I read a testimonial published yesterday by The Memo.
Molly Flatt wrote a piece where she explains to her fellow paper book co-religionists how she had strayed from the path of righteousness, made bad decisions and fell in with the wrong crowd, before finally rediscovering her faith.
To be clear, I am not intending to mock religious testimonials so much as point out that this sounds like one:
I got my first e-reader in 2009. It was a Christmas present. I had mixed feelings.
On the one hand, THIS WAS THE FUTURE. On the other, swiping at that cold screen was to thumbing through sweet-smelling pages as porn is to sex. Also, this being 2009, and Sony not being Amazon, the selection of downloadable books was seriously limited. Then there was the fact that, as a wannabe author, being part of the move from print to e felt like digging my own financial grave.
After a brief fling with my cherry-red bit on the side, I reverted to paperbacks.
But then my career took off. I started to travel to interminable tech conferences that required, problematically, both one lightweight carry-on bag and a shedload of novels to while away the long-haul flights and the sub-TED talks. I dipped a toe back into the ereader scene and found, that the Kindle Touch was, if not exactly pleasurable to use, inoffensively functional, and that almost all new releases and plenty of backlist titles were now available. My soul shrank, but convenience won out.
Of course, I felt terrible about having become a digital-only hypocrite. I still believed deeply in the aesthetic superiority and cultural meaning of print books, the value of local bookshops, the utter evil of Amazon, and my own future ability to sell a novel that took six years to write for more than 99p. Of course, I had read the growing body of science telling us that we absorb more, remember more, experience more empathy and even sleep better when we read in print.
Cue angel song
My husband and I now spend the majority of our evenings reading; it sounds utterly illogical, but while mutual screen-staring is miserable, mutual page-staring feels somehow… shared.
I’ve discovered that bookshops are even better than they used to be, because the weak links have been weeded out and even the big chains have been forced to up their game to survive. The NearSt app has helped me source as much as possible from local independents, while breaking away from the buy-now button has helped push me out of my digital filter bubble.
While I have previously referred to lovers of paper books as fetishists (in some cases it was an apt description) this is the first who makes it sound like paper books were her religion.
What can I say, people are weird about books.
image by fourbyfourblazer