Being an avid reader and lover of books, as well as a published author of an eBook, I’ve been asked a lot which do I actually prefer. It used to be plain and simple – paper books. Hard cover, soft cover, magazines, etc. All the better to hold and feel.
However, the more I dabble in being the owner of eBooks and eReaders, the more I am starting to waver. I share a house with my husband and three kids and there is limited bookshelf space or, more importantly, limited space to put in more bookshelves. And, yes, we have a lot of them already – all being avid readers and book lovers. All I can say now is eBooks have given me more bookshelves!
Now, I won’t do the pros and cons of paper books vs eBooks as the one blog post. No, I want to give them each equal space and so I will focus on paper books for this one and save eBooks for next.
The Pros of Paper Books…
I think the biggest pro for me is having the honour to own some really old books. I have a bit of a cookery book habit… as in I love to collect cookery books. And by calling them ‘cookery books’, rather than ‘cook books’, I hope you realise this means they are usually old. The majority of the ones I treasure are now fifty to sixty years old. Yes people, the 1960’s were fifty years ago now… I’m sorry to break it to you. However, some of my most favourite cookery books are eighty to one hundred years old. They are brilliant in what they demonstrate you can make from apparently nothing, plus are a wonderful window into the world that was. One of my favourite lines from my 1909 cookery book is the serving suggestion for a dish of four lamb chops. Something like: ‘Would suit four ladies at a luncheon or two gentlemen for supper’. Oh I could go on about cookery books, but I was really just trying to use them as an example to why an old book is so cool to own in paper form.
I mean, yes, you can own the same book as a dull old eBook copy… but it honestly isn’t the same.
Another pro is the smell of books. I’m sorry, but I do happen to like the smell of books. That musty, dusty, papery smell of books en masse in one place for a decent amount of time. Yes, depending on where they’ve been stored they may take on the odour of cockroach or rodent… but in my family they smell of cloves and cinnamon. Why? As these are natural pest repellents to silverfish and other paper eating bugs. So whole cloves and cinnamon sticks are scattered behind the books on the shelves, or poured into the boxes storing them elsewhere. And, to me, it’s so wonderful to crack open a much loved, much read book of mine and be enveloped in that papery, musty and clove scent.
The feel is, of course, the next one. Curling up on the couch by the fire with hot beverage in one hand and good book in another is heaven. Though you do need to ensure it’s a correctly proportioned book for how you are curled, as it can become more of a juggle if you’re say reading an eight hundred page plus hard cover epic, compared to a nice little paperback of around eighty thousand words.
The achievement/ ability to show off that you love books would round all these up. I don’t know about you, but being able to walk into a home and see the walls lined with bookshelves full of books is pretty impressive to me. It’s the wow factor. Look at me, I love books this much! And, as long as all those books are indeed loved and read regularly… then that’s okay. You look a bit of a dork if they’re untouched and all the same thing. Think the pretend books they display in bookshelves at places like Ikea. ‘Display only’ books in a home are a big turn off…. Which makes a great opening to the:
The Cons of Paper Books…
Yes, ‘display only’ style bookshelves in a home do make you look the pretentious numpty. It would be far better if you gave the books away to a good home and just kept all the DVDs you really watch in the shelves instead. Then there is the fact that owning so many books means you have a lot of dusting to do. As a mildly dusty smell may be good, but having to wipe off an inch thickness of dust and cobwebs to see the title on the spine is bad. Very bad. And cloves and cinnamon only go so far to deter things eating them.
Speaking of things eating them, kids and pets don’t go well with paper books. Yes you could say they don’t go well with eBooks either… but seeing your electronic device flushed down the toilet and eaten as a chew toy isn’t as heart aching as opening your one hundred year old book to see a yellow crayon smiley face over the recipe you were reading. Or, and this really has happened, forgetting to lock your bored parrot in the laundry and so coming home to see the hundreds of books in your bookshelves now spineless as they were such fun for the bird to pull apart. No, we didn’t suddenly have a new feather duster.
Size and volume, as impressive as it can seem, can be a pain when trying to actually read them. I have a large, hard cover medical text book on anatomy and physiology I enjoy reading. (I like knowing how it all works, okay?) Thing is, not a book to curl up on the couch with. Too big, too cumbersome and its hard cover corners are just so gosh darn pointy! Anything you read on your eReader is all the same size. Just saying.
A con that was also a pro is the smell. Yes, if you’ve had the misfortune to have to store your books somewhere there are rodents, cockroaches or say, the ability to flood, the smell of your books isn’t always that nice. Mould and mildew, rodent stink and roach stains. It’s heartbreaking. Worse than act of parrot.
Which brings you to the up keep of paper books. Yes there is the dusty, pest repelling, rodent de-odourising and pet and child proofing side. Yes there is the finding a decent place to store them all (shelves, boxes or otherwise). But just finding a place to store them and look after them can be a full time job. Let alone when you are gullible enough to lend a book to someone you felt was a friend. Yes, they may have been a very good friend when the book was loaned out… but what about when it is returned all dog-eared and stained? Or – horror of horrors – never returned though they swear blind that they did. And no that is not your copy of the book now in their shelves; it was a copy they bought after reading it. Sure.
I am positive there are more pros and cons to all this, but I don’t want to go writing a novel on it all. All in all, paper books can be a great thing to own and something I hope to always have in my possession. But you do need to look at both sides of things before stating they are the only type of book to own and read.
My next weekly post – the pros and cons of eBooks.
Until next time,