We at ThinkingWest have dedicated this website to exploring the content contained in the Great Books. Our aim has always been to spark interest in the classics and challenge our readers to delve into these works by whatever method suits them best. With the rising popularity of audiobooks, digital E-readers like Kindle, and free online PDF’s, more people than ever have accessibility to the Great Books. This is no doubt a positive development; however, here I would like to focus on a topic of growing importance as we continue to progress in our digital age: owning physical copies of great literature. Below are 4 reasons why you should own physical books in the digital age.
1. They Can’t Be Easily Edited or Erased
The internet has provided the world with the ability to disseminate information at a faster rate than ever before. The pros of instant communication cannot be overstated. Recently, however, our society has begun to experience some negative ramifications brought about by our dependence on the internet. One consequence is that history, definitions of words, and basic facts are no longer foundational to our shared reality. Content on the internet is constantly subject to scrutiny and censorship. The controllers of major internet websites have taken to revising or deleting content to suit the whims of the ever-changing narrative. Consequently, it’s not hard to envision a future where classic book translations are updated to be “less offensive” to the point that their original meaning is lost.
Physical books are not beholden to the ever-changing preferences of the times simply because, once a book is printed, it is a physical object that cannot be digitally edited or deleted like a website or online document. Anything with an internet connection has the ability to be corrupted, however physical objects require physical acts to revise or destroy them. Sure, a Fahrenheit 451 style book-burning is always possible, but it is not nearly as simple as changing or deleting online documents that can be manipulated with a few clicks.
In short, physical books are a bulwark against the ever changing tide of censorship and manipulation spearheaded by internet oligarchs who are hell-bent on creating a culture devoid of history and immutable values.
2. They Can Be Heirlooms to Pass On
Unlike digital PDF’s, Kindle books, or audio books, physical literature can be passed down to your children or loved ones and will survive long after you’re gone. Hardcover or leather-bound books can last for hundreds of years, ensuring the knowledge contained within lasts equally as long. Children who inherit a book from their parents will have the comfort of owning a valued heirloom in addition to the practical knowledge that’s contained within. It’s hard to pass on a digital file without it getting lost since digital copies lack material qualities – a digital copy of a book is simply one of thousands of files one may have tucked away on a computer or tablet.
The presence of a physical book serves as a reminder attesting to the importance of learning, reading, and pursuing wisdom to ourselves and our children.
3. They Make Great Decorations (After You’ve Read Them)
The value of a quality book goes far beyond just the textual information it contains. A well-constructed book, perhaps with a leather cover or gilded pages, simply looks good on a bookshelf. After serving as a conduit for useful information or a gripping story, the book now serves as beautiful decoration. Digital books on your computer hardly appeal to the eyes as a file on your desktop screen or as a title in your Kindle library, but many people find that storing their beloved books in an office, living room, or den can add an air of refinement to the room.
A person’s identity is, in part, a reflection of the information they have consumed, often through books. Therefore, it makes sense for people to want to adorn their home with such life-shaping décor.
4. They Aren’t Dependent On a Separate Device or Electricity
Growing up, one of the surprising joys of an electrical power outage was grabbing a flashlight, a novel – perhaps a selection from the Magic Tree House series or the Chronicles of Narnia – and getting lost in an adventure. E-readers or audio books require an electrical charge, making them useless during power outages if the batteries need charging. Of course these situations are rare, but when they do happen we often enjoy the entertainment of a nice novel without all the normal distractions offered by our electric homes. Additionally, one doesn’t ever need to bother with charging a physical book, removing just one more hassle of daily life.
Not only do physical books prove their worth in power outages, but also anytime we wish to escape the commotion of modern living and retreat into the wilderness. When escaping to mother nature, an E-reader is just one more device to keep track of. It’s often simpler to just bring a physical book. Physical books aren’t dependent on electricity or another device to keep working. They’re ready to adventure whenever you are.
Although it’s becoming somewhat antiquated in our digital world, I hope you consider reading physical books instead of audio books or E-readers. Even if it’s for the simple reason of spending less time in front of a screen, reading physical books makes for an enriching experience. Of course, any reading is better than none. Whichever method you choose, just keep reading.
2 thoughts on “4 Reasons to Own Physical Books in the Digital Age”
Love this post and have quite a few thoughts.
On your first point I was drafting a discussion post recently about 1984 by George Orwell. I was thinking about the Ministry of Truth and how scary it is that it echoes this era we live in of fake news and twisting facts to suit a particular narrative and it is true I can see books becoming sanitised online in a similar way.
I also agree with books being heirlooms and being passed down. I also think with the rise of things like vinyl records people do like having physical things rather than electronic formats which does make books more disposable.
I do think ebooks have a place as from a point of convenience I do read them when I’m out and about but I always prefer a physical book over a digital one.
Thanks Michael, I agree E-books certainly have their place and can be convenient at times since they allow you to carry hundreds or even thousands of books in your pocket at once. I definitely think there is a deep human need for physical things though!