Why I Will Always Love Paper Books


Why does anyone love anything?

Think about it: why do you love the things you love? Try to answer that question in a clear and logical way.

It’s hard, right? But just because you can’t write a detailed list about why you love what you love doesn’t mean the love is any less real.

Take my love of paper books for example. I love those print monsters. I have quite a collection of them, and every time I pack up and move somewhere new I have to carry them around. Any of you who have had to pack and carry boxes full of books know how deceivingly heavy they are. My collection is strictly based on personal value. I’ve gotten rid of books I never read or didn’t like. There’s no use in keeping things that don’t add to your life — especially when you have to literally carry them around. So the print bricks I carry made the cut, they are those I actually care for.

But that’s love, right? It makes us do silly, silly things.

And this love is strictly for paper books. I make that distinction because as much as I have entertained the thought of getting on board with e-books, I just can’t. E-books are the worst. E-books make me want to throttle something. (In the end, I’m a non-violent guy).

There’s a reason I love paper books, and really, it’s quite simple: they weigh more.

Not talking about all the ink and paper and glue. I mean the metaphysical weight, the intangible heft that bounces around in spirit form.

When I hold these print sandwiches, I think about the journey it took to get to me: the writer who sliced off part of her soul and put it on the page; the editor who told the writer how often she was bad at her craft and fixed it; the publisher who found the whole venture profitable, and said, Sure, why not, let’s make some money; and the printer and shipper who eventually got the book to me. This block of mass was created by a whole lot of people who cared a lot about their craft. That’s one story.

The other story, the one that really makes the books in my library irreplaceable, is the one it and I create together. As soon as I open and read its first word, I am changing ever so slightly because of this book. My point of view around life, value, history, mystery, wonder, and hope has shifted ever so. Every minute I spend exploring this book’s innards is a minute I become more connected to the world, because I am actually exploring it.

Ah, the invaluable beauty of reading a good book.

But there’s more. The paper book, as if out of magical instruction, changes, too! It’s actually alive! No, I don’t mean it wakes up in the middle of the night and does mischief in my sofa. I mean that it ages, just like I do. The books that you and I have kept over the years are now different than they were when we first got them. The pages are a little ripped, the paper is discolored, the smell is different, and even some of the binding is falling apart… just like us.

This weirdly romantic notion I have around reading and living with a book is exclusively reserved for paper books. First of all, e-books don’t age. They don’t change, they don’t move forward in time with no opportunity to change the past (like we all do in the many ways we mess up our lives). With an e-book, there is no degradation, there is no permanent stain (just hit “Undo”), there is no loss of value or capability (if it happens, just download it again from the cloud). An e-book, and its papa, the e-reader, are immaculate god-like things that are smarter, cooler, and perfecter than us. In all: they are a drag.

They are amazing innovations that even I get jealous of from time to time. I respect them, but I don’t love them. I don’t think fondly of them. I just nod and think, Yep, that is pretty cool, and go back to leafing through my tome.

Give me a grumpy, stuck-in-his-ways, fragile, easily offended paper book any day. I don’t have time to deal with any more coolness or flash in my life. I had plenty of that in high school. I want something that is wholly and unapologetically real. E-books are not real. They are holograms of real. They are phantom versions of real. And to cap it all, they are so charming that when I use them I forget about why I turned the damn thing on in the first place: to read my book.

Look at the relationship you have with your partner, or your habit of writing poetry. Can you tell me exactly why your love is there? Maybe you can, but maybe you can’t and are fumbling to find the list of reasons or the logic behind your pitter-patter. Does it matter if you can’t articulate or make sense of it? I certainly don’t think so. Your love is there, and that’s all that matters. Loving is not an argument that needs to be won, but a feeling that appears all of a sudden and you can’t ignore it. The best of loves don’t make a whole lot of sense. And that’s fine, because just like I love my family, my lady (and best friend), and the blessings in my life, I love paper books. As long as it makes some sort of sense to me, what else should I care about?