In defence of paper and print: is an eBook ever as good?

If there’s one thing that immediately comes to mind when I think of happiness, it’s a well thought out bookshelf (think rainbow-organised, neat little rows of content). To me, there are not many things more pleasing than seeking out a beautiful book cover – except turning the pages and finding an equally beautiful story inside. The eBook versus paperback debate has been a topic of conversation regularly debated in my household; I’ve tried a Kindle, my Mum has tried a Kindle, and it’s safe to say that our conclusions have been divided. I’d like to think that we will never reach an age where bookshops will decline to a point where I can’t find one nearby. I love immersing myself in the shelves, and musing over which novel to lose myself in next. Scrolling through a list of titles, without the feel of a solid book in your hand, just isn’t the same – that’s why I will always speak in defence of paper and print.

Picture this. I’m deciding which books to add to my collection next, and I stumble across what I would consider to be one of the most captivating front covers I’ve ever laid eyes on. For some reason, it definitely costs more than the average paperback, so my flatmate suggests that I pay for an eBook. I know, I recoiled too. It’s not that I don’t understand the appeal of clickable reading, of not having to drag ten hardbacks around in your suitcase when you travel (although that always seemed part of the fun), or the instant satisfaction of not having to wait for it traditionally in the post. I can’t help but feel nostalgic though for the period of my life when eBooks weren’t this prominent on the literature scene, when I would wait anxiously for a release date and rush to my closest Waterstones, or when everyone I knew would get just as excited over ‘new book smell’ and a pretty cover as I did. Even the age old debate of using a bookmark or folding the page corner over to keep your place becomes redundant. What would we talk about without this valuable conversational material?

In an era where almost everything is online, surely we need some forms of entertainment that don’t involve staring at a screen, particularly with an activity that a lot of people use to fall asleep. I also can’t help but feel sadness for authors at the thought of print decline; most of whom probably spend a good proportion of their lives, waiting in anticipation for the moment that a person picks up their pages and falls in love with their creation.

Without printed books, I’ve come to the conclusion that all of us would be a little bit lost, even if we’re too caught up in the excitement of a Kindle to realise it right now. At the end of the day, curling up on the sofa with a good book and a cup of tea is one of life’s great privileges, and one that definitely can’t be rivalled by reading from a device.

Emily Merrill

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