In my mind, there is absolutely no question of the physical book’s ability to beat the E-book in any physical or metaphysical altercation. Besides the fact that a Kindle’s measly translucent glass could never be a worthy opponent for a leathered hardcover, there are a multitude of reasons for why the physical book is indomitable. Sure, you may have heard this argument before; the new versus the old, the economics behind books for your buck, the ‘it is just so convenient when I’m travelling’ argument. Whilst these are valid, there are just some aspects of curling up with a book that remain irreplaceable.
I am of the strong belief that books should not become untouchable, sacrosanct artefacts, to be preserved for the sake of preservation. For me, as much as a story can mould the reader, the reader too can mould the book. Physical books are an acute expression of the dichotomy between the tangible and imagination. The very pages themselves hold memories: every household owns a cookbook with sticky pages on the pancake chapter, or smatters of icing binding together the Barbie and the Thomas the Tank Engine birthday cake recipes. These leftovers between the pages are memories themselves, perhaps more poignant even than the buttery words of Nigella.
Much of my home library has become a vestige for these memories. In my copy of The Half Blood Prince, my 13-year-old self scribbled a shell-shocked “NO!!! ☹” in the margin besides the passage outlining Dumbledore’s death (spoiler alert, but also c’mon it has literally been 15 years). On my shelf, along the spine of Fantastic Mr Fox, are tiny beagle shaped teeth marks from our first family dog. For my twenty-third birthday, a friend gifted me a novel with her favourite lines lovingly underlined. To this day, my parents continue to write messages in the front endpaper, wishing me a Merry Christmas. Re-reading reveals books that have been so lovingly dogeared over the years, the lines are now permanently embedded in the pages.
The countless times I have moved has not prevented me from lugging along boxes of cheap paperbacks, of which most have pages holding on for dear life.
I have cringe worthily left price tag stickers on books, purely because they are in a different currency and remind me of the places I have visited. Sometimes, for a thrill, I keep the sticker on to remind myself of the joys of inflation, but mostly because I will always remember when and where I have read a good story. Alone in an unknown place, a physical book can be a truly comforting thing. Books read by the sea become yellowed and wrinkly. As you absorb the words, they absorb the sun and salt. A stray train ticket from a trip to visit an old friend may nestle itself between pages. A coffee could have stamped your copy of Gone Girl as you sat in an empty airport at 3am waiting for a flight home. Perhaps a book was so good you opted for backpacking with it for 3 months, risking the extra luggage fee, over parting with it. Because of this, a book is so often my favourite souvenir.
Printed books have the dreamy ability to captivate your senses. For book lovers, there is no better sight than the colourful well stocked shelves of your local bookshop. The simultaneously saccharine and mellow smell of fresh books is tantalising and evokes a Pavlovian response in every reader. The sound of a hefty hardcover’s spine cracking as it’s broken in is the shotgun that signals the beginning of a new narrative.
In a world where we are bombarded by blue light, there is no better respite than between the covers of a new book. Vibrant stacks of books besides your bed are a positive reminder of the perspectives you are yet to encounter…whilst also serving as excellent nightstands. Novels begrudgingly studied in high school become nostalgic relics of a distant past. Passing a book between friends — at even a failed book club — becomes a briefly uniting experience. Books passed down from your parents to your own kids become treasured heirlooms.
You will never see me buy a Kindle, because emailing a link to a friend is simply not the same as tying a red ribbon around 1984. You will never see me buy a Kindle because reading Rainbow Fish to your little cousin just isn’t the same without the reflective shiny scales for them to paw at. You will never see me buy a Kindle, because I want to hold stories close and feel the weight of the author’s words in my hands.
Plus, a real book never runs out of battery.