Vivian Nneka Nwajiaku
E-books have become a thing. Many of us book lovers now have virtual shelves. They’re much cheaper to build and fill up. Most times, it’s even easier to locate books on virtual shelves. E-books defy the can’t-have-your-cake-and-eat-it law since you can give it out and still have a copy. Plus, the world is now mobile, and most of us want be part of the trend. Yet, we’re not quite ready to give up physical books. In fact, some of us are convinced that physical books will never really get phased out. Here’s a dozen reasons hardcopies are irreplaceable:
- We like to brag.
You see, the average reader wants other readers to see what they’re reading. We want to hold up the book in the park or in the bus or wherever so the next person can comment. Sure, the digital world allows us take screenshots of our e-books and post them online for comments, but we can also take pictures of the hardcopy. It may be a longer process, but we take our own pictures all the time. We just don’t mind.
- Our favourite gifts are books.
Not all of us, but many of us are eternally grateful for book gifts. Book gifts here don’t quite extend to softcopies. In fact, unless it’s money or music, I don’t want an e-version of a gift.
- Comfort is comfort.
Forget that we like to arrange books on a fancy table and take pictures that we plan to upload on Instagram with the right filters. Most of us don’t read on tables, so reading on a desktop is a no-no. Reading on a laptop requires you to put the laptop in a spot and position yourself in a way that’s probably uncomfortable. Using a phone is great until your battery runs down and you have to plug it in. Now, you have to be careful how you pull the phone to suit your comfortable position or you just might damage your charging port. Like many others, my bed is my comfort zone so you can understand why this is a problem.
- Pop-ups are distracting.
Chances are your reader runs on ads. But if you’re using a pro-version or one of those rare no-ad readers, you’re still not safe. You have emails, WhatsApp messages, YouTube pop-ups, blah blah blah. No, I don’t like to put off my data because I need my stuff coming in real time. Besides, I might hate pop-ups, but I don’t want to miss an important call that comes in through WhatsApp or Skype.
- We can be intentionally untidy.
I never mark my books. This is the one up-side for me when it comes to e-books: I can easily unmark when I do mark. But there are several readers who live to mark their books. Crooked lines, out-of-place circles, large asterisks, whatever works. I don’t know, maybe it’s evidence when they brag about the books they’ve read. Maybe it’s just how they like to bookmark. With e-books, there are limited marking systems, and they are definitely not crooked or out of place.
- Readers are serious people.
Or at least, we want to look serious. You don’t look serious when you’re staring into a device for prolonged periods. At least not to mum and dad.
- Computers get too many updates.
Saying e-books don’t last as long as physical books doesn’t seem very true, thanks to the cloud. One Drive, Google Drive and Dropbox have changed our lives. But like the world, tech is changing too, and way too fast. One day, we just might hear that pdfs and epubs are no longer supported formats, and conversion may require paying computer experts. Or we may be required to get a certain update to our cloud storage with terms and conditions that we’d rather not be bound by, and then become unable to retrieve our lifelong shelf acquisitions. Or some other crazy stuff that wouldn’t sound possible in 2018.
- We cherish our eyes.
It’s not certain whether prolonged use of digital devices truly causes permanent damage to the eyes, but we don’t want to be part of the statistics that confirms it. Plus, we do know for sure that the eyes get strained and tired from all the screen use.
- Dusty books are beautiful.
There’s just something beautiful about travelling for a few months and returning to a dusty shelf of dusty books. Also, you could write an entire book about searching for an ancient chronicle and finding it all dusty and soaked in cobwebs. You could never do such an e-book story (even if you find a way around it, the book just can’t be dusty), and the best you can do to make an e-book feel ancient is to create cobweb or dust filters. It can never be the real deal.
- Our sense organs love hardcopies.
We may not be able to utilise all our sense organs when reading, but at least we use more with hardcopies than with softcopies. With softcopies, we only see. We really cannot consider touching a device as satisfying the desire to touch. With hardcopies, we do more than see. We feel each page as we flip over, run our hands over the edges, smoothen creases, and fold pages when taking breaks or as a physical bookmark. We actually touch the fabric of the book—hardcover, paperback, cloth, leather, denim, name it. These things are important to us. And oh, the smell of books! Even a 3D e-book can’t win this one.
- Digital devices aren’t always mobile.
True, you can’t go everywhere with your shelf. You might change your mind about what to read when you’ve left home. But what use is a mobile shelf if you can’t take it into a place where electronic devices are not allowed?
- Physical books offer memories.
I don’t know about you, but I often remember circumstances surrounding my reading of hardcopies. It’s not so with softcopies. I’ve found that it’s the same with many readers.
The Publishing Association reports that e-book sales fell by 17% while physical book sales rose by 8% in the US in 2016. Clearly, we really do love our hardcopies.