Printed books can never be replaced by screens

Cassie LaJeunesse, Campus Carrier Editor-in-Chief

I am a bibliophile in every sense of the word. I love books; I always have. I accumulate them at what could be considered an alarming rate, unable to resist a used bookstore or a bargain bin. My shelves at home are teeming, overflowing onto my desk, floor and every other surface.

Here’s an idea, you might say. Have you considered an e-reader? It’s easy to use and will cut down on the necessity for shelf space. Please consider this article my most respectful request for you to go away.

That may have been a bit harsh. I’m glad so many people have found e-readers to be a helpful means of consuming written material. That being said, I will NEVER be persuaded to give up my trusty paperbacks. Here’s why.

There is something so satisfying about holding a book in your hands. Even more satisfying than turning the pages is the finality of closing the back cover when you’ve finished. Don’t tell me that doesn’t give you a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.

Now, close your eyes and imagine walking into a used bookstore.

Wait, don’t close your eyes. Keep reading. But envision it. First, there’s that smell. I promise you’ll never find a tablet that smells like that. It’s the smell of paper that was printed before you were born, paper that has passed through countless hands, homes and libraries, paper that has taken on a life of its own.

My books are my friends. Each one has a story beyond what is printed on its pages; each takes on an identity which evolves as I read it and lend it out.

For a long time, I was vehemently against annotations and marginalia. I thought I was defacing these beautiful books that I cherished so much. The more I buy used books, however, the more I find myself writing in books.

An inscription, a margin note, even a simple underline can tell a reader so much about the readers who came before. A printed book with annotations suddenly becomes so much more than a story to the next person who reads it. Not only does every subsequent reader get the chance to read the original story, readers can interact with each other across generations and regions. I love opening a new used book and learning another reader’s perspective on what I’m reading. However, this opportunity is only available through printed books.

In building my personal library, I’ve been able to collect books that belonged to my grandparents and parents. I hope one day to pass books along to future generations. The idea that one day, years from now, another reader will come across the notes I took for a class or the words I underlined excites me beyond comprehension.

Even now, I learn things about myself from looking back at books in which I’ve written. I read Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch” (an excellent and compelling read, might I add) while on choir tour in Europe last year.

When I look back on it today, I remember reading for hours on the plane when I couldn’t sleep. I can’t help but smile at the lines, squiggly from the uneven movement of my hand while I tried to write on a moving bus, under unfamiliar words which I promised myself I’d look up later.

Like every other book I own, this book tells a story beyond the one printed on its pages. Each word scribbled in the margin and heart drawn next to a particularly beautiful passage tells me a bit about the person I was when I read it previously.

I suppose there is value to an e-reader. After all, the most important thing is that people read. But there is too much about printed books, beyond the stories they tell, that makes them valuable. That is why you will never convince me to give them up, and I recommend that you don’t either.. I just need more shelves.

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