Staff Editorial 8/25: Still hooked on books

We seem to be in the midst of the digital book revolution. Borders is dead, libraries are closing and sales of e-readers are through the roof.

And yes, there’s something to be said for the convenience of a Kindle. You can carry an entire library of books in a device weighing less than nine ounces, and perfectly sized to slip into a pocket or a bag. You can have all of your textbooks in one place. The possibilities are, essentially, limitless.

But the printed book is the oldest medium for a reason. Digital books, while convenient, have several distinct disadvantages. There are numerous different formats and devices, and they aren’t compatible with each other. What are the odds of finding one with every book you’re interested in?

Putting all your eggs in one basket can be dangerous, especially when it comes with the inherent problems of being digital. What if your device gets stolen, and you lose everything? What if it breaks, or the server goes down? And really, were you planning on carrying all those textbooks around anyway?

Print books, on the other hand, don’t break. Research also shows that reading print helps us retain more of what we read. We seem to be conditioned to skim what we read on a screen, and reading digitally takes away everything that spatial memory contributes to the experience of reading a book. This isn’t even taking into consideration the havoc screens wreak on our eyes.

On a more sentimental note, reading a book on a device is immensely less personal than its counterpart. You can pour yourself into a book in ways you can’t on a screen; doodles, smudges from tears, dog-ears, handmade bookmarks, and, of course, that wonderful book smell. Books are works of art in their own right, with their cover design and binding, and can be kept forever. Your Kindle will be outdated in a month.

Books are also practical in ways that e-readers could never be. You can use them to prop things up, keep a table steady, hit people, play Dominoes, fuel a fire, etc. If you were stranded on a desert island, wouldn’t you rather have a book than a tablet?

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.