MenagerieThe few, the proud, the paperbacks: Books in a paperless society
The few, the proud, the paperbacks: Books in a paperless society
August 22, 2012
August 22, 2012

In Rogue Magazines April 2012 issue, CEO Jeff Bezos reported that the sale of e-books used for Kindles were outselling their paper counterparts. To some, this is proof that technology wins out, yet again. With growing concerns over the environment, e-books mean less waste. That is: less need to shave off a few more acres of tropical rainforest in the real Amazon to make way for a few leaves in a book.

Then again, we have the life-was-better-in-the-middle-ages junkies, who contend that reading through soulless plastic machines, like the Kindle, is a plain eyesore; who hark back to the good ‘ol days of print-and-bound, who love the smell of a good old book, the feel of the paper, the smudge of ink on fingers running through the corners of a misprinted page.

Both sides have paragraphs to print (pun not intended), but lest we judge a book by its cover, or the reading device by its plastic frame, let’s take a look at both sides of the debate.


The inconvenient truth

Your books are probably idly tucked away in musty shelves, untouched in the deepest pockets of your school bag – or in their hollowed homes, libraries that have grown even more silent through the years. They wallow in the dead air, food for termites.


Drop the paperback, embrace the e-book

Since the arrival of iPods at the turn of the millennium, it’s been about what you carry, not what you read, on these sleek and shiny gadgets. Not only do they play our music, they let us watch movies from the palms of our hands; and, more recently, let us “lug” multiple books around without all that extra weight.

With the hype to be more eco-friendly, some have promoted e-books and tablets to save paper. Some schools have even implemented the use of these gizmos; La Salle Greenhills has pioneered the use of Samsung Galaxy tablets loaded with the e-books students will use for the rest of the school year. It also allows them to access power points teachers upload for classroom discussions – particularly useful when reviewing for a quiz.

And don’t forget those applications – “apps” as they are often called – that organize all your reading material with a swipe of the finger.

Book-reading, anyone? While there are still those who enjoy cuddling up on a couch with a warm blanket and a book in hand, which ‘self-respecting’  teenager still reads books from cover to cover these days, unless it’s a required reading? Or unless it’s one of those popular young adult books or some mainstream novel hyped by a new movie?

Politics by Andrew Heywood? Only if my grade depends on it. Nudge by Richard Thaler in their spare time? Forget about it. In fact, a BBC article, written in 2008 (the National Year of Reading, launched by then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown), revealed that one out of  four Brits have never read a book or had any intention to read one. That includes Victoria Beckham, former Spice Girl and wife of football star David Beckham, who claims never to have read a book in her life.

Perhaps some just do not have time to read. Others may have simply lost interest. Whatever the case, reading may not be the “in” thing anymore.

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Fans of the printed word would probably tell you that you’re missing out on a different universe that awaits you. Books encourage the flourishing of imagination. Our televisions could not compete with the visual effects that books may have, since most (good) literary works make you feel like you are a part of the story. Some will make you feel omniscient, and others literally push you into the minds of its characters, leaving one struggling to live life in their shoes. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, for instance, makes you a wizard, thrown into the midst of an epic battle between good and evil.

With pre-fabricated scenes that do all the thinking for you while you sit on a couch and eat chips, television can only do so much. Imagination, wrought by the written word, is infinite.

Wake up and smell the… books? Talk to any book lover and the first thing they’ll use to describe a favorite book is the smell. Yes, that olfactory sense that attracts us to fragrant flowers and gourmet cuisine attracts us to the paperbacks and hard bounds that bring just as much pleasure to the eyes. Do that to your Kindle or iPod, and you end up sniffing plastic. Think about it, the smell of books, like the smell of trees from which they come, attracts us – it’s almost human nature, one of life’s peculiar pleasures, like squeezing catsup out of a bottle.

Leave the gaming to the gadgets. Books are the supreme learning tool. Students learn better using tactile techniques, such as highlighting important details, writing and doodling on their books, making notes on the margins and such. These study tactics can stimulate one’s cognition to better memory recall and enhance problem solving ability. For some, there is nothing better than a trusty textbook and a good old paper and pen to better understand lessons.

As enticing as learning through gadgets may seem, we all know that we’d rather use them for fun and games over reading. Many have complained of having headaches after reading through their books on Kindle or its Apple counterpart, the iPad. To add to that, what would you usually see someone using their gadgets for? Reading a Tom Clancy book or playing Temple Run?

Books in the crib. In Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Klaus, the only boy in the trio of siblings, was a book lover and spent all of his days in the family library, a room with more volumes than Imelda Marcos would have in terms of shoes. But this was all before those oh-so-unfortunate events took place.

With the advent of technology, the word library has taken a new meaning. Forget about the room full of volumes; you now have an app for that. Maybe this would be more convenient for some but to pore over countless volumes in the confines of a library at home? That’s something else.

At the end of the day, books will be books. No matter the form they take, they still pass on their message to their readers. Technology is on the rise, and one notable example would be the adaptation of books into the gadgets we use. On the other hand, books, especially those in print, will always have a special place in the hearts of bookworms and casual readers alike. But which form is the better one?

We’ll leave that to you.