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Codex Comforts

Paper books have been around for a long time, and there’s a good reason for that

There’s been a lot of conversation lately around the merits of paper versus e-books, and as a lover of analogue tools and “old things” as I’m so oft to quip, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add my voice to the chorus. Between that and my post synopsis you likely don’t need much imagination to determine what side of the debate I’m on. As much as I could proudly flash my tech nerd badge at meetups Disclaimer: I have neither an actual badge nor meetups. I’m not that weird., there are areas in my life where I’m happy to still have one foot rooted firmly in the past. And don’t dare try and drag me out of it for I will start kicking and screaming, and generally make for an embarrassing scene to likely get posted to YouTube.

I will always love paper books.

”But wait, your bio says you’re a minimalist!” I can already hear you retorting from the other side of the internet. That’s true, and I should be all over e-books based on that lifestyle and cast off any and all connection to dead tree volumes. From a pure physical space perspective e-books win out every single time, there’s no denying this fact. You can have your entire library of literary tomes of knowledge and wonder pancaked Mmmmm, pancakes. into a thin, portable, svelte brainwave stimulation device. All books, no clutter, what’s not to love? Here’s my rebuttal to that:

No physical clutter.

As a minimalist I’m very in touch with, and affected by digital clutter as well. Left unchecked, this can easily be more pernicious that physical clutter. Even if only subconsciously, your mind can perceive the vast swathe of digital titles at your fingertips as overwhelming. Having to scroll or search through titles on a device could easily be more cumbersome than walking up to your shelf and grabbing a paper book at a visual glance, especially if your digital library is full of so many titles that you don’t even remember everything you have. And once you’re done reading those e-books, what then? They just sit and gather dust in the electronic ether. I would posit that’s a worse waste of space than a physical book which you can easily pay forward, or sell used, to let someone else enjoy it while freeing up new physical space for yourself.

To me, there’s something appealing about physical bookshelves that reminds me of a work of art. As you cycle through titles, you get to enjoy the changing colours, graphics, and emotions brought forth by the collage of book spines. It becomes a constantly morphing reminder not only of what you’re currently reading, but how much you’ve already enjoyed and passed along to others. A reminder of progress, and like life itself, something that grows and gets shaped by your own experience and interests.

Reading a paper book is a definition of comfort, relaxation, and slowness. It’s a subtle slowness, but it’s there.

All of this completely ignores the other best parts of paper books for me; the smell of the paper, the textures of the sometimes raised typography or images on the cover, the comfortable feel of cradling the spine in my hand, and the subtle sounds of shuffling the pages while I absorb the words within. Reading a paper book is a definition of comfort, relaxation, and slowness. It’s a subtle slowness, but it’s there. Instead of just tapping the screen to turn the page, there are movements that require my time. Page flips, spine and book adjustments in my hands, even shifting position in the chair or bed. They are all subconscious parts of the experience that make me smile.

There are no distractions, notifications, or even fingerprints staring back from a screen. No choices of light vs dark mode, or fiddling with backlight levels to find that goldilocks setting for your eyes that particular day. No battery to watch out of the corner of your eye, forcing you to perhaps rush through a chapter to beat that proverbial buzzer. Paper books force you to be intentional in their simplicity, and they expect or demand nothing from you but your hunger for prose.

Like that old leather couch with inviting cushions and a lush patina, paper books are a comfort I will always gladly come back to.

Posted in #SeptemberScrawls - Day 20

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