There is nothing quite like the physicality of a book. The heaviness of it in your hands, the crispness of pages. Words printed on paper, bound together between covers.
I have always been a great lover of physical books. I like annotations, recording my own thoughts through highlighter and pencil, decorating the book so it becomes something unique. Far from my own, but no longer fully the author’s either. A gradient between the two.
I like being able to flick between passages, breeze quickly from middle to beginning, beginning to ending, all with the lightest touch of a finger. When I read historical or autobiographical novels, the ability to flick back so easily to the photos buried in the middle really does enhance the enjoyment of the book.
However, recently I’ve also fallen in love with electronic novels, words printed not on paper, but darkened by a thousand pixels. Although the tangibility of physical books is partially the reason why I love them so, there is an undeniable satisfaction in having all your books contained on a tablet thinner than your index-finger. A tidiness to it all.
Last summer I discovered the website Project Gutenberg, where classical novels gone past their statute of copyright are available to download for free. It really is a treasure-chest. I made my way through the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and am currently going through Agathe Christie’s murder mysteries. It is such a useful resource, and I’ve found a great deal of novels for my English modules available for free there too.
Most of my reasons for enjoying digital literature are based in practicality. Space; price; accessibility. However, I’ve discovered that, in the same manner that physical books have their own aesthetics, there’s a wonder to eBooks – its own special brand of comfort.
I’ve found that I far more enjoy reading eBooks at night, in comparison to physical books. I had never fully understood how obtrusive my bedroom light is until it was off, and I was snuggled in bed, night surrounding me as my tablet’s words shone from gentle light. I fall asleep much quicker after reading on my tablet, the act of simply switching off a device far more relaxing than the intrusive disruption of getting out of bed to turn off the light (and then having to stumble back in the gloom, undoubtedly tripping over mislaid shoes).
I think it’s impossible to pick a favourite; to choose between electronic means of reading, or the traditional, physical nature of books.
In my opinion, there will always be a market for them both because each provides something the other cannot. They are the same species, yet different breeds. And both offer escapism to another world, just a different means of transportation.