Last week I talked about my penchant for collecting things (as opposed to hoarding them). One of the things I discussed was my love of physical books. I just can’t get enough of ‘em. “There’s always room for another book on my shelf,” should be my motto. In a day and age where you can literally store a thousand books on an e-reader, I wanted to explain why the hell I still love to stockpile physical books.
First is the look and feel of a real book. As I glance around my living room, my collection of books makes me instantly smile. I have three bookcases full of ‘em, as well as another one in my entry hallway. There are books on travel, acting, writing, cooking (yeah I know… what the hell would I do with a cookbook … you’ll find out later on, I promise), religion, self-help and plenty of fiction. I have classics like Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and W. Somerset Maugham, beach reads like David Baldacci, all of the Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books, Charles Bukowski, Raymond Feist, Orson Scott Card, and of course plenty of plays. I even have “The Real Mother Goose” and “The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh” on my shelf! So I think whether you’re a child or an adult, you will find something in my collection to satisfy your taste buds. And that’s the point. One stroll around my living room and you can be gazing at an assortment of PHYSICAL books to suit your fancy. Isn’t that more fun than scrolling through an e-reader? Ummm… yeah it is. And there’s nothing like when you hold a book in your hands. Truth be told, if you’re reading the hardcover version of “Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follet it’s going to get a bit heavy at times (and possibly give you a hernia if you carry it around in your knapsack), but that’s part of the fun of it. At least I think it is.
There’s also the social aspect of a physical book. They are truly great conversation starters. When I see people totally oblivious to the world around them, holding onto that subway pole with one hand while they clutch their book in the other, I just have to know WHAT the heck they are reading. Try doing that with an e-reader. Not gonna happen. (Trust me, I’ve tried.) But with a physical book, you can see the front cover with the title displayed. It’s like the book is begging you to tap the person and ask him or her “Is that book good?” (And yes, I’ve done that on many occasions.) In fact, I know a married couple who met while independently reading the same book in the park. One stopped to ask the other what part of the book they were up to, and voila! It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Could my soulmate possibly be out there reading one of my favorite books right now… just waiting for me to approach him? Sigh, one can only hope.
And what about bookstores and libraries? Again, it’s a social thing. Browsing through the shelves, I never know whom I’m going to meet and what book they’re going to tell me about that I will absolutely LOVE. That is NEVER going to happen with an e-reader. Sure, I can read the user reviews on Amazon before purchasing my electronic copy of “Fifty Shades of Grey” (I admit it’s in my e-reader… I was far too embarrassed to put that book on my shelf). But online reviews are not the same as having a live conversation with an actual human. It’s that personal interaction that is so often missing in today’s Internet world and I think books are a great way to bring us back together again.
There’s also the debate as to whether we process information better on paper as opposed to on a screen, but I’m not sure I want to open that can of worms. That debate is probably best left to the science experts (which based on my past blog, It's Science... You're Not Supposed To Understand It, we all know I am not). However, I will say that my brain works better when I can touch the information I’m trying to process. I enjoy physically turning back the page if I think I missed something. Or using a pen or highlighter to note things. (I know you can do that on an e-reader but it is absolutely not the same). As an actor, I can’t learn my lines as well with an electronic copy of the play. I want to feel the physical pages.
Look, I think e-readers have their time and place. I own one and I am more than happy to bring it with me on a long trip where I don’t want to lug twenty books in my suitcase. (I like to read A LOT on vacation.) And certain books do not need to be prominently displayed on my bookshelf either (case in point: “Fifty Shades of Grey”). But all things considered, I will always opt for a physical book. They look sexy and you can show the world that you do, in fact, have a hobby. Side note: it can make a great weapon if need be. Nothing like slamming someone upside the head with your hardcover copy of “The Joy Of Cooking” to show a troublemaker who’s boss! (Told ya I’d find a use for that cookbook.) Happy reading to all… (preferably) the old fashioned way!