Reading Books Should Be Popular

Books are doorways that lead the reader into different worlds. Every book is a new experience worth trying. Those that love reading tends to stay at home and read something interesting rather than going out and spending money on things they don’t need.

Every good book will give you thrills, and you will feel like you are looking a long movie or even a series of sorts. That is the power of a well-written book.

Youngers love their devices, and they read books over them. Their interest in books is commendable, but they miss something important, and that is the feel of the paper and the smell of the book.

The best way to acquire books

About two blocks away from my apartment in Brooklyn, NY, there’s a bookstore that’s closing down. (That’s nothing surprising at the moment, sadly.) The bookstore’s going-out-of-business deal was insane—fill a bag for $5. I did what any greedy book-lover would do: double-bagged a grocery bag (so I could hold more books, duh), and loaded up.

I scored big time (a bunch of novels and history books, some photography pieces, and books signed by Adam Gopnik, William F. Buckley, Jr., and Mitch Albom), though watching the face of the owner fall as he took just $5 for all those gorgeous books almost made it not worth it. (Notice I said “almost.”) I went home and immediately started digging through my treasure. In doing so, I had an experience I haven’t had in a very long time.

The difference between digital and paper books

I buy books almost exclusively online, and mostly through Amazon. I read on my iPad, or my iPod Touch, or my Android phone; most of the paper books I own are little more than decoration, sitting on my bookshelf to make me look all literary and stuff. I love reading digitally because it means I can read anywhere, on a device I’d be carrying with me anyway, and I can have a ton of books to read at once.

But as I held books that were thirty years old yesterday, flipping the dusty pages, reading autographs and inscriptions, and admiring cover art, I realized I’m missing something. There’s something, something I can’t explain, about the way a book feels to hold and read that no digital version can match. Yesterday I felt like I was holding a story, an entire world ready for me to explore—I’ve never felt that way on my iPad.

I’m probably not the only person feeling this way, but I’d never really noticed it until yesterday, after months of reading digitally and not picking up a paper book at all. I picked up a book called “New York in the World War,” that felt fragile, cared-for, and old. Five minutes of reading felt completely different than the same words would have on my iPad’s screen.

The shift in mentality when reading books

I’ve spent some time here thinking about the new trend of un-design. Every day, I use services like Instapaper or Readability to make things ostensibly “easier” to read—big fonts, consistent colors, and flow, less distraction. But I wonder if we’re doing not only the creators of this content but ourselves, a disservice. The color of the paper, the size of the text, the heft of the cover, and the brittleness of the pages as I turn them all affect how I feel when I’m reading a book. Sliding my finger right-to-left doesn’t capture how it felt to turn the page of a seventy-year-old book.

I’ve noticed a change in the way that I read, as well. As a kid, I read voraciously, and exclusively for pleasure—I’d sit down, and look up five hours later having missed meals, showers, TV, and bedtime. Now, though I read far more than I ever have, I don’t read for long periods of time anymore; I read an article or a chapter here and there, but it’s been a long time since I was truly lost in a book. I wonder how much of that is due to my fractured attention span (which everyone seems to want to blame), or the fact that I’m not able to immerse myself in the screen of my iPad like I could in the pages of a book. After sitting with Garrison Keillor’s Love Me, I’d wager the latter.

Our experience with a book or an article is hugely dependent on a number of small factors, most of which we’d never notice until they’re gone—like page-turns, dog-earing my current page, or how much more I enjoy reading on the sepia, off-white pages of most books than on the stark black-on-white of Instapaper.  We spend time making the experience more convenient that we might be missing some of the experience. I wonder, more now than ever, whether it’s a worthwhile trade.

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