5 Reasons Why I Love Physical Books

Every night we debate why we love books. We are asked so many times about the market place for “physical books” right now, the rise of e-readers, and Amazon. And every night, we remind ourselves why we love books so much, and why we passionately believe in their long term viability. Here are 5 reasons, among millions, why I love physical books…

nightstand books
A happy nightstand.

5. No e-distractions.

Reading on a tablet is like trying to read on a crowded subway with street performers doing 10-second handstands while the conductor incoherently shouts about upcoming train delays and the brakes screech and a creepy way-too-close guy sits next to you asking, “WHAT ARE YOU READING?” There are too many distractions. Email. Internet. A sudden and insatiable urge to Wikipedia where Gary Busey was born.

When I read the final page of the Great Gatsby, I don’t want another email ding reminding me that Cottage Inn Pizza has a Superbowl discount (although we do have an unhealthy addiction to Cottage Inn). When I read, I want to escape from the real word. I don’t want to be reminded about the latest flash mob sale, I don’t want to be reminded of work obligations, I don’t want to Wikipedia Gary Busey. I want a soft light, a comfortable chair, and a book — and nothing else.

4. Gift Giving. 

One of my favorite presents was an unexpected gift given to me when I graduated college. It was from an acquaintance and the book was, “The Power of One.” Inside it was an inscription, a personal message of well-wishes. That had never really happened to me before. I had gotten books, but not meaningful books, with meaningful inscriptions. Since that day, I’ve tried to reciprocate and give books I believe my friends and family will love. If they have a new baby, I will give them, “Go The F*ck To Sleep” with a little inscription that says, “Good luck!” You can’t get a similar reaction with a digital download gift certificate.

3. More memorable. 

Maybe it’s got to do with that distraction thing. Maybe there’s something about touching the printed words. Maybe this is just a flawed perspective. For whatever reason, I remember better reading physical books as opposed to anything on any screen. It might sound crazy, but when I read on screens, words blend together into an unrecognizable mush. I’m reading screens all day. I’m reading sports and NPR blogs all night. So when I read anything online that takes more than two seconds to finish, my eyes are jumping around the screen, searching for more, unable to concentrate, like self-inflicted ADD. However, when I read a physical book, everything slows down. My mind slows, my eyes stop bouncing around, the characters seem more vivid, the settings seem more intriguing, and the endings seem more memorable. I don’t know why this is, but it just is.

2. Bookshelves.

I love bookshelves. Specifically, I love other people’s bookshelves. Bookshelves are like an old-school version of a Facebook profile. When you walk into someone’s home, you can steal a quick glance at their bookshelf, you can see what they read, and consequently, you can learn about them in strange ways otherwise not discussed over cocktails or small talk dinner conversations. You can learn a lot about a person whether they shelf A People’s History of the United States or Cookin’ With Coolio. Or both.

1. Winding down the day.

A book to me is part of a nightly unwinding process: Glass of wine, check. Bed or comfortable chair, check. A book that allows me to unwind and escape, check. When I read a book, it feels like leaving everything else behind… the same way multiple glasses of wine can feel. Reading a physical book feels like going on a mini-vacation. It’s like turning off the phone, closing the laptop, and checking out for the day. You wake up sometime around 3am and see that the lamp is still on, the cats are asleep, and Love And Other Obstacles is resting on your chest, and you turn off the lamp, and sleep soundly the rest of the night. You just can’t get that wonderful, satisfying feeling when you close out of your e-book, check 15 work emails on your tablet, then press a power button.

These are just a few reasons why I love physical books, among so many. What are some of your reasons? I’d love to hear from you.

– Mike

14 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why I Love Physical Books

  1. Pingback: Hope For Indie Bookstores: Ann Arbor Edition | MI Tspelczequer

  2. juelp1971

    Wonderful defense of books! To borrow from Marvin and Tammi, there ain’t nothing like the real thing. I love to give personally inscribed books as gifts. I also love to finish a book that I love, rave about it to a friend, and then hand him the book to read. More than anything (well almost anything), I love to go to bed with a book and fall asleep exactly in the manner you described. I am currently felled with the plague and am going to bed soon with 2 new books, unsure of which will lull me into that delicious sleep that you so eloquently described!


  3. Rory Madden

    For me the main appeal of physical books is their analog nature: I can flip through a book very easily to find the page I am looking for. I can quickly flip back and forth between different areas. This quality is very useful for reference books, such as tabletop rpgs, which are a personal favorite of mine.

    Physical books are also great for pictures! Tablets tend to be pretty small and have certain disadvantages anyway (they are clunky and back-lit). E-readers are all black and white and even smaller!

    Personally, I find that e-readers (such as the Kindle) satisfactorily fill most of the criteria you mentioned:

    5. E-Readers are dedicated reading devices, so email, internet, and other distractions don’t really enter into the picture.
    4. There are many ways to give people e-books rather than, say, a gift certificate, and several of those, such as an email, allow you leave personal messages. I have certainly been very touched by the ebooks I have been given by friends and family in recent years.
    3. A big part of the distraction in reading from a tablet is the back-lit screen, which is glaring and hard to concentrate on. E-books are not back-lit, and I find them quite comparable to reading physical paper.
    1. I regularly curl up in bed with my Kindle to read whatever book I’m currently drawn to. It’s actually smaller and lighter than many physical books, which makes it easier to hold. Very comfortable and relaxing.

  4. Keith Rondinelli

    It may go without saying, but I’ll add to the list the sensual nature of physical books: the way they feel, the way they smell, their weight. Moby Dick feels heavy, in accordance with its importance and subject matter. And old book has a wholly different odor than a new one, and in this way they can be dated, and remind you of certain periods of your life. I literally feel better when books are nearby, they exude a warmth and familiarity and sense of longevity that an digital device can never replicate. The texture and thickness of the paper, the typeface, the jacket – all these things come together to create something that you can form a bond with, and can inform and enrich the reading experience. Looking forward to adding to my collection at Literati!

  5. Jenny Weed

    I don’t think I knew that Coolio had a cookbook! A great post about physical books and being reminded about inscriptions. I have a book that my mom gave to me on my first day of school. And I love the comment about old school Facebook with bookshelves!

  6. Irena Nagler

    Physical books involve more of our senses, and some of that might be beneath the surface of conscious perception. They’ve got DNA on them from everyone who’s touched them, and from the plant materials that are part of their composition. There is a web, infinitely comprehensive, rich and complex, to which they are much more completely linked than the electronic one (which I also love up to a point–at least, what it was intended to be, and sometimes is). I think that physical books’ being more directly part of the “real web” is included in the experience of holding and reading them. They’re made of substances that carry dreams and memories in a multi-sensory way.

  7. vixieswim

    I love the physical feeling of turning the page, and seeing how much reading you’ve accomplished :). Just bought two “real” books last night. Congrats on the bookstore!

  8. gjnctf

    I Couldn’t agree more but sadly I live in small apartment and I only have space for a small bookshelf so for now after years of resisting e-books I’m reading a couple of them on my new tablet in order to save some space. Nonetheless, I will ALWAYS prefer physical books over e-books. NOTHING will ever take their place and I hope they never stop making print books.

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