Last week, the book industry released figures showing that e-book sales were down so far this year -- the first time they have declined -- while print remained relatively steady. When the news broke, we published a piece on 10 reasons e-books are better than print.
In the interest of fairness, we now offer a list for the other side: a 10-point case for print.
1. Print books have pages that are nice and soft to the touch. Paper makes reading physically pleasurable. Reading an e-book, on the other hand, feels like using an ATM. And after staring at a computer screen at work all day, how relaxing is it to curl up at home and stare at another screen?
2. Print books are better at conveying information. A study reported in the Guardian last year found that readers using a Kindle were less likely to recall events in a mystery novel than people who read the same novel in print. So if you want to do things like follow plots and acquire information, print is the way to go.
3. Print books are yours for life. The books you bought in college will still be readable in 50 years. Do you really think that in 10 years your e-reader – or book-reading watch, or virtual reality goggles – will work with today’s e-books?
4. Print books are physical reminders of your intellectual journeys. That beat-up copy of Catcher in the Rye on your bookshelf takes you back to sophomore year of high school. The Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda conjures up memories of late-night dorm room bull sessions. The food and wine-stained Lonely Planet Greece brings back that trip through the Greek Isles. A Kindle is just a Kindle.
5. Print books are great to share. There is nothing quite like putting a book into a friend’s hand and saying, “You’ve got to read this.” There are ways of sharing e-books – if both you and your intended recipient can navigate the Digital Rights Management system. But sharing an e-book has all of the warmth of sending an e-mail or paying someone on PayPal.
6. You can write in the margins of a print book, dog-ear the important pages, and underline the key sentences with a pencil. E-books often allow the digital equivalents of these acts – but they just aren’t the same. There is a link between physical gestures and cognition: the things we do to print books seem to help us to understand and remember better.
7. Print books have jackets, so people know what other people are reading – which makes reading a community-building act. A bus full of people with print books is a snapshot of what is on a town or a city’s minds – as well as a collection of ideas for what you should read next. A bus full of people reading e-books is just a lot of people staring at devices.
8. Print books are fairer to writers. The Author’s Guild has been beating the drum for years that publishers give writers a lower percentage of the royalties for e-books. That makes it harder for authors to earn a living – and to produce new books. If you want to support writers, who are struggling these days, more than publishing giants – buy a print book.
9. Print books are better for your health. A Harvard Medical School study last year found that reading a light-emitting e-book before bed interferes with your ability to sleep, with your alertness the following morning, and with your overall health.
10. Print books are theft-resistant. If you leave a book in your car, you can be pretty sure it will be there when you return. That is probably not true of your iPad, Kindle or other e-book reader. And a bonus: if you drop a print book in the bathtub, you can dry it out with a hairdryer.