This or That: paper books


courtesy photo

You’re packing your bags for your relaxing beach vacation. You always take a couple books with you to keep your mind occupied while you burn under the sun. This time though, you’re not sure if you want to pack your trusty paperbacks or the fancy e-reader you got for Christmas.

As an avid reader and major fiction enthusiast, I encourage you to pack the paper.

There are many aspects of reading a paper book that rank it above e-books. While e-readers can contain libraries of stories and are light and easy to carry, the reading experience they promote is incomparable to that of paperbacks.

While reading a paperback, the reader is able to literally feel the story unfold. According to Anne Mangen, lead researcher in a Norwegian study on reading, reading on paper allows you to sense your physical progress, “on the left growing, and shrinking on the right. You have the tactile sense of progress … providing more fixity and solidity to the reader’s sense of unfolding and progress of the text, and hence the story.”

Paper books also provide readers with a sense of nostalgia. Reading a classic on paper gives the reader a feeling of “wow, so many people have read this story, just like me.” “Jane Eyre” or “A Raisin in the Sun” on an e-book do not provide readers the same level of connection to others who have read the same story, for until fairly recently, no one read on electronic devices.

Frequent readers value the participation and engagement aspects of reading a paperback. While you can highlight or make notes on an e-reader, you are not able to flip through the e-book and see your reactions or notes in the margins. Physically dog-earing a page because you loved the contents allows you to celebrate that specific reading experience.

Both electronic and paper books have their pros and cons, but paperbacks foster a more enriching read (I haven’t even mentioned the smell!). Which will you pack?

photo courtesy The Independent