Review: Paper Books

So I’ve read an actual paper-based book the other day. This is actually highly unusual for me. I read a lot — 65 books last year — but my reading is usually done on electronic devices, not actual ink-and-paper books. My friend Uli encouraged me to write about this novel experience.

In short, I found it annoying, despite the content. There are just so many distractions apart from the actual story. Simply holding a Paper Book is a two-handed affair. No relaxed sipping on my Gin and Tonic unless there’s a table nearby. No easy reading while standing in a tram or sitting in a plane.

And don’t get me started on the sheer heft of the thing. The book I read was some 450 pages thick. Not only is it heavy, but the space the thing takes up in my bag is enormous. I could have packed a bottle of water. I could have brought a cat or two. But no, I had to lug a kilo of dead tree around, just so I could experience a story.

I somehow subconsciously expected the Paper Book to vanish once I had finished it. Since my trip was rather long, I was looking forward to finishing the story and subsequently having some free space in my bag, but my stupid subconscious hopes were dashed once I did and realized I’d have to carry around this thing – that was now worthless to me – around to the end of my journey.

And during that carrying-around period, it’s hard not to damage a Paper Book. Put away the Paper Book without closing it properly? Damage. Flip the pages too carelessly? Damage! Of course my kindle can also be destroyed, but it’s way more robust. And if my kindle is gone, I only lose some money, not an actual book I have and want to continue reading.

Of course, once I have more Paper Books, I could put them on a shelf and proudly display them to friends and guests and suchlike, but why bother? Are they really going to be impressed by my collection of medieval Indian erotica? Is the book about the university professor with Asperger’s really such a conversation starter? I’m not convinced. But Paper Books are pretty, both from the outside and in their layout and presentation of their content. I accept that, because it is one of my maxims that Beautiful Things Work Better. The question is, does the prettyness merit the increase in cost and annoyance? To me it doesn’t.

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Are you going to be impressed by my collection of medieval indian erotica? (image by Sankara Subramanian)

I don’t listen to records, I don’t drink fussy coffee, and I don’t read Paper Books. However, I don’t look down on people who do. I have other things where go for the tea ceremony style of consumption, such as certain alcoholic drinks. So in conclusion:

Paper Books. Not for me.