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Editor's Note: In defense of a traditional read

Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 12:00 p.m. CDT

I shared a story on Facebook about my toddler becoming rapturous over the smell of a rack of books. A friend – a voracious reader – posted the following comment:

“Books are dead and gross and not good. It’s like someone in the sixteenth century saying, ‘Books are fine but I just love the smell and feel of scrolls.’”

So I thought about that. A lot. Probably too much. And while I enjoy a good e-read – I read books on both my phone and computer regularly – I decided I’m not ready to give up my paper library just yet. And here are some reasons why:

• Books are eco-friendly. It’s not commonly known, but the paper and printing industries, in the United States at least, plant more trees than they cut down. My traditional book is not powered by a battery charged by burning fossil fuels, and when it comes to the end of its useful life, it can be reused, composted or recycled; even if it ends up in a landfill, it will biodegrade in about 15 years without leaching toxins or heavy metals into the environment.

• Books are easier to lend to friends.

• I feel more comfortable putting a $5 cardboard book into the sticky hands of my toddler than a $150 e-reader. No explanation should be necessary.

• Speaking of children’s books, a child’s brain responds differently to the multi-sensory experience of a book (feeling it, smelling it) than it does to images, even moving images, on a screen. The more senses involved, the more neural pathways the brain creates to process them.

E-books are fine, and I understand my friend’s abhorrence of the “mold, mildew and bacteria” paper can harbor. But there are some things a tablet just can’t do as well as a pile of paper pages. And I like it that way. So put me firmly on the fence between the two camps.

And whether you’re reading this in print or online, enjoy your MidWeek.

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