There is something profoundly satisfying about books. They have a good feeling to them, in a physical sense. Their weight in the hands is pleasing. The aesthetic joy of a fully stacked bookshelf is hard to overstate. I’m not sure why I feel so strongly about books when many people I know don’t seem to care at all about them. Part of it is the joy of reading. To me, there’s something singularly special about the written word over other forms of media. The art of writing is challenging, so producing a complete book with actual honest to goodness words inside is a big deal, at least to me.
My love of books has been pretty constant for most of my life. Some people don’t read at all, and I cannot wrap my head around why. It’s such a bizarre thing that we seem to be ok that a portion of society has essentially no interest in reading anything. Maybe it’s a smaller proportion of people than I think, or perhaps it’s ok because they read the news or Twitter. I’m not sure, though. I think we’d find it strange if somebody said they never listen to music or watch movies. Not just rarely, I mean if they did not watch a film or listen to a single song in an entire year. It would be bizarre, yet with books, it seems not entirely uncommon.
Anyway, my enjoyment of books comes from several reasons. I love the sight of a well-filled bookcase. It takes effort to fill a bookcase. It may be for aesthetic purposes only, in which case that would be a shame, but still, a filled bookcase is more likely to lead to reading than an empty one. There’s some folk wisdom that you shouldn’t date someone if they don’t have a single book in their house. It may be a little reductive, but for quick ways to determine what someone values, it seems like as good a way as any to me.
Not only do books look great on shelves, they feel great in hand. There is a tactile joy in physically holding a book and turning its pages. Feeling the texture of the paper, the strength of the binding. And every bookworm knows the smell of a book as their happy place. Years of Pavlovian self-training to associate the smell of books with a cosy armchair and the joy of reading is hard to overlook. It’s a solid reason to prefer physical books over digital ones.
On the subject of e-readers, I recognise them as being in most ways technically superior to a physical book, but I am certainly not running out to replace my library with a kindle. It may be cheaper, more accessible, and easier to transport, but I simply don’t care. Instant coffee is cheaper and faster to make than anything else, but try asking a coffee fan if they prefer a cup over their favoured roast sometime. Books are not about practicality. Well, they’re mostly not about practicality. The act of perusing a bookshop, buying and storing books is an integral and enjoyable part of the process. Just because I could find a pdf copy somewhere doesn’t mean that I will enjoy it all the same. Practicality is important, but I only value it in specific instances such as reference material while working or studying rather than maintaining a purely digital library of books.
One exception to this digital book aversion is with audiobooks. Since they’re such a different way of experiencing a book, I consider them an entirely different medium. I enjoy audiobooks when I’m walking; they let me focus on something and help eat up the miles without noticing how far I’ve gone. Though I mainly use them for fiction rather than non-fiction which is easier to remember after I’m done.
In short, reading is something that I find pretty indispensable to my daily life. I enjoy books and reading for their own sake, but also for the educational or entertainment value they provide. So go and read more, thank me later.