Don't totally turn the page away from physical books

Lisa Goudy
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I’m a book lover. I’ve loved to read books since I was very young. I read a variety of genres and have read non-fiction and fiction. In my spare time you’ll most likely find me reading a fiction novel that is either fantasy, science fiction or perhaps a gripping mystery. While occasionally I’ll read a book I don’t enjoy, for the most part I absolutely love every book I read.

Personally, apart from loving the books, I also love the feel of having a book in my hands as I sit outside if weather permits or on a couch or every now and then in bed. I don’t know what it is about holding a book and flipping through its pages that makes it so novel to me. Besides, I have a bookshelf filled with books. In fact, it’s so full that I’m out of space, but that doesn’t stop me from buying more books.

So you can imagine my first reaction to eReaders such as Kobos, Kindles or iPads and I know there are many more out there. As such, it would also come as no surprise that I have never actually tried any of those eReaders to read books, but I know a lot of people who do have them. I just haven’t decided if I want to give it a try or not.

From the people that I know who use eReaders, all of the reviews I’ve heard are astoundingly positive. One review I heard was from a friend who said she had first been kind of opposed to trading a physical book to online books to read on eReaders. Of course, things changed when she was gifted with an eReader and now she states she really enjoys reading online books.

Since I have no experience with eReaders, I honestly can’t say if I’d feel the same way or not. Maybe I would, but maybe I wouldn’t. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to the idea of eReaders. If people enjoy them, then that’s just fine by me. I just think that people shouldn't overdo it and totally forget about reading physical books.

However, my issue with the idea is that a) you’d lose the feel of actually holding a book and turning the pages, which I have always been in love with and b) you’d spend your time reading from a screen.

In modern society, we spend a lot of time looking at screens. Chances are when you’re at work you’re going to be looking at a computer screen (as I am while typing this column). At several points during the day and night, lots of people will take out their cellphone and maybe send text messages or emails or surf the Internet.

You come home from work and maybe you’ll watch some television or a movie. Perhaps instead you’ll go out to a movie at a theatre instead. Or maybe you’ll sit down with your laptop and do some personal things like checking out Facebook, Twitter, personal emails or browsing the Internet some more.

There is a rule in the world of optometry known as 20-20-20 - every 20 minutes, look for 20 seconds away from a screen at least 20 feet away. By looking at screens too long, it will cause eyestrain, which leads to eye fatigue.

It’s also harder to read for as long on a screen without the same problem. Yes you can hurt your eyes by reading too much of a physical book. But you can read a physical book longer before your eyes start rather than reading on a screen.

Books are one of the oldest forms of communication. Stories were first told orally and then they were written down. I know it’s extreme and probably never going to come true, but I would hate to see book production halt and switch entirely to online.

I’d miss more than the feel of the book or how much longer it takes to hurt my eyes or how it looks in my overflowing bookshelf. I’d also miss that part of our history that dates back centuries.

I think it’s a good idea to keep reading physical books and at least find one way every now and then to get away from the screen-mania that has become standard in our culture. The feeling of a book in your hands has a texture that not even computers can replace.

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