The Smell of Books > The Smell of the Screen

No matter how novel eBooks may seem, they can never quite compare to the satisfaction of reading a printed book. (drawing by author)

When I was in elementary school back in 2009, I remember being envious of the kids whose parents let them borrow their Nooks (or Kindles?). It made those kids look cool and sophisticated. Then again, when you’re young anything new looks cool. I was there when my teachers started using SMART Boards instead of overhead projectors and people gravitated to Facebook instead of Myspace. However, the novelty of technology doesn’t make up for what you lose. Technology didn’t make the quality of reading time any better, just because my book was in digital form. Here’s why reading paper books is so much more satisfying:

Book Smell

Older books always smell the best. Flipping through D.H Lawrence’s Of Sons and Lovers and getting a whiff of the paper scent almost brings me back to my grandmother’s house, myself unconsciously associating the aroma with wisdom and comfort. For the best book-wafting experience, head to those parts of the library with very old book collections. You can’t get that reading an eBook. They don’t smell like anything unless they are on fire. 

Zombie Apocalypse?

Though the event seems unlikely, just imagine how bored you would be if you were the last person alive. At first you might feel thrilled with all you could take advantage of as one of the few people left. With all that free food , clothing, and housing around you, what else could be better? It is important to consider what all of this freedom would feel like over time, however. Eventually you would have to deal with the consequences of a massive power outage. Your phone wouldn’t serve much of a purpose, yet books would always be there for you. As long as your eyesight remained intact or you had some glasses, you wouldn’t have an excuse to be bored with millions of free books around you! (Just make sure all the zombies are dead first).

Feeling Your Progress

Especially as a student, the act of tracking where you are in your book is so satisfying. Being able to see how close to the end of the book and compare what you know at this point to what you did is a great feeling. It’s harder to feel that sense of accomplishment when your digital book just tells you what page you’re on and what page is the last (or what percent you’re at). This goes along with being able to use a physical bookmark and marking several parts of the book at once. This is an advantage that eBooks just can’t give you. 

My Eyeees

Staring at screens for a long time can really hurt your eyes. Though lighting is important for reading so as not to strain your eyes, a bright screen close to your face just hurts. According to doctors working for Vision Source Signature Eye Care, “studies have shown that when reading on a screen we tend to blink less — sometimes causing eyes to become dry and sore. Glare on a digital screen is also a cause for concern as it can tire the eyes more quickly than normal.” Not only would you be lessening your average weekly screen time, but you would be making healthier choices for your eyesight. 

No Charging Necessary

Though I try not to use my phone excessively, I do find it necessary to bring my charger with me everywhere because of how fast the life drains out of it. If it’s already a hassle to think about charging your phone all the time, why make it more annoying by having to charge your book? Who wants to have to get up in the middle of class to charge their book when paper copies let you access reading at all times. They don’t even break on impact if they fall on the floor! As someone busy with homework all the time, I know I would just be putting more stress on myself to bring a book charger with me all the time in addition to other textbooks and notebooks. 

Theft Is Less Likely 

Worrying about leaving your electronics or expensive valuables unsupervised, such as when you leave your laptop in the car to do some grocery shopping, can be so nerve-wracking. The bright side of reading physical books is that most people tend to see electronics and expensive clothing as more valuable, so they can help you feel more secure. Even if a thief did try to steal your paper copy, they wouldn’t be taking with them your email or your contact information. 

Multitasking!

When reading a book, it is always the best feeling when you are super engaged and excited to see what happens next. Getting notifications from your email, Snapchat, or Instagram just distracts you. Speaking from experience, I might spend a good 10 minutes on the random side of Instagram scrolling through because of one small notification that leads me to become more curious about what else there is. While I’m reading, I don’t want to be watching Megan’s never-ending collection of selfies.  It is always a better read when I feel my connection to the story is able to separate me from my own story in reality. If the point of getting into a story is to zone out and escape for a little while, why would I want to be constantly reminded of my own life with emails about assignments or sales at the UConn bookstore?

There are so many other reasons I could give about the enhancement of your reading experience via paper copies. I could also go on about how you could have access to tons of cheap books when going to old/used book stores and how being able to write in the margins is awesome. I could even talk about how, although technology can save paper, eBooks won’t change the fact that there are millions of physical copies already printed out there.

Reading physical books can be your escape from our age of advancing and annoying technology takeover. Just as movie sequels rarely match up to the original, reading the old-fashioned way is more rewarding.


Clara Gomes-Ferres is the Long River Review assistant webmaster and a poetry panel reader. She can be reached at clara.gomes-ferres@uconn.edu.


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