The Continued Value of Print

With the inexorable rise of ebooks, there have been a lot of people expounding the continuing benefits of print books. Most of them tend to cite similar things:

  • The physical heft of print books.
  • The smell of print books.
  • The permanence of print.
  • The retention of knowledge when reading print books.
  • Etc.

People also approach the issue from the perspective of the benefits of ebooks.

We’ve all read these blog posts and articles, we know how they go. These are all legitimate and important considerations.

Here’s an article, though, that mentions a couple benefits of print that I’ve not seen cited before—and I think these reasons are some of the best for continuing to allow print books to play an important role in all our lives:

The Biblioracle on Physical Books in an E-Book World by John Warner (posted by the Chicago Tribune on August 2, 2013)

My take-aways:

“When my Kindle rests on my nightstand, it is a Kindle, not a book. Its features don’t change depending on what I’m reading. During the day, glancing at it, I do not reflect on what I’ve been reading. It is an object of utility, rather than one of meaning.”

“I’ve always been of the words-matter-most school, but there’s something about the design [of print books] that works in harmony with those words that can elevate the reading experience.”

“When I’m working on something and need access to two or more texts simultaneously, the Kindle is worthless.”

Lest you think I’m a complete Luddite when it comes to ebooks, I should state that I love reading on my iPad. I think ebook technology is truly beneficial.

But the considerations that many put forth in support of print books have validity, too. Of course the value of print books is changing, and the role they occupy in our lives is certainly shifting with the advent of ebooks, but print books will always have value. And it’s important for us to learn to recognize when ebooks are appropriate for the need and when print is still necessary.

More than anything, I wish the tenor of this whole “ebooks vs. print” dialog would change. We still couch it in terms that are far too either/or. As though this is some kind of zero-sum game and different media are in exclusive competition with each other.

But it’s not any of that. We need to quit it with the whole “vs.” part of the discussion. Both print and ebooks serve needed—but different—functions.

It’s a very good thing to have both available to us.

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