Print vs Digital

If you follow me on Instagram, you might recall that I recently snapped a picture of a book– Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth, (print).  I was following my personal collection development policy, which favors aesthetics and sentiments over informational value.  The bookshelves throughout our home contain a rather exclusive assortment of titles.  I used to amass books in the name of book love, but moving 2 times in the last 17 months, I’ve gotten rid of the detritus and diversions from the heart of my collection.  My reading tastes tend towards fiction, but just a sliver less than half is non-fiction: poetry, religious guides, history, handbooks and thesauri.  I’ve weeded all of my travel guides, except my dog eared and postcard laden copies of Paris: 2010, and St. Petersburg: 2006.  I only have two college text books (out of probably 50), zero grad school texts.  The oeuvre of an author is important to me as I grow older, and I feel like McEwan is a great friend I have gotten to know over the years.  Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Woolfe, too.

When I lived in foreign countries, I often bought books for the beauty of their cover art, but as time has passed I’ve retained only the ones whose words are most meaningful.  I guess that is what is so troublesome to me when people moan about the demise of print books, the loss of tactile experience, the cover art, the damn smell of dead trees and chemical laden paper, for goodness sakes.  As a book consumer, I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has been seduced by a nice cover image, uneven pages, the pristine surfaces that lie below our fingertips, virgin words.  This copy of Sweet Tooth was decorated in red and green, curlicue fonts, like a gift that was so pretty it didn’t even need wrapping.  I laughed at myself later when I noticed this.  I imagined myself, eight years ago, standing in a London bookshop.  I might have snatched up a copy of a similarly designed book, maybe even two copies: one for me, one to send to my mother back home.  Agreeing to try a new author based on the physical product, but then falling in love because of his words.  I can accept the nostalgia some people have for print books, but outright refusal to read digitally because it is not the purest form of the book is faulty logic.  When reading a digital version, the text goes directly from the author’s formulation of the words to your own mind, and that is the purest form of love a reader can have for a book, I think.

My valuation of McEwan’s new novel notwithstanding, I am glad I have it in both forms, if only to make that area of the bookshelf  more complete and devoted.  I imperceptibly leapt with joy when I spotted the cover at Indigo Books.  I can’t remember the last print book I bought for myself before that.  Do you feel the same way about digital books? Are you a reluctant ereader?

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