First, a confession. I am a massive bookworm and firmly believe everyone, especially children, should be able to access books. There is simply no better way to learn, have fantastic adventures and expand the imagination than through reading.
In the last decade eBooks have caused a revolution in the way we consume writing, but I could think of a million reasons as to why physical books are far better than eBooks.
But let me just say this, holding a book in your hand which you have carefully chosen, from either the blurb on the back or its cover, is a thrill. Back in the day when books were precious, and few, and authors were deemed gods of the written word, we collected, bought, borrowed and stashed our precious volumes in equally special places.
My new multi-award-winning children’s novel, Jodie and the Library Card, plays with this idea by being set in a future where physical books are banned. The central character, bookloving 12-year-old Jodie Broom receives a library card than enables her to travel through time, so obviously she goes on a quest to bring back physical books to her time.
Here are my top five reasons why physical books are best.
When we go to a bookshop, or go through our bookshelves at home, we can get a better feel for a book. We can feel the smoothness of its cover, the quality of its pages, the richness of its illustrations, and consider it in context with similar titles. We can even just grab a book on the spur of the moment by an author we happen to be following. The sheer pleasure of wandering around a bookstore searching for that special volume (the older, the better, in my experience) is something to savour. That distinctive aroma of the volumes permeating around the shop is like a perfume. I guess what I’m saying is that a physical book has substance. It is the total package. An eBook is like the shadow of a book presented on a lifeless, flat screen. We lose the character, the presence and ease of choice.
Opening the first page of a physical book is a wonderful thing. It's like opening the door to another world, and all the voices in that book are yours and yours alone. It’s the physical act of turning of the page that makes this magic work. That anticipation cannot be replicated on a screen, even if the device tries to emulate the experience.
The thing with eBooks is that they need power, and that’s not always available. One of the most practical benefits of a physical book is that they don’t need electricity to function.
Books and candlelight were meant for each other, and for many centuries the soft flame of a candle was the only way to read past sunset. Reading by candlelight gives such an impact of concentration and an atmosphere of the story being told to us. How can an eBook’s illuminated screen hope to compare? Even better, candlelight won’t fill our eyes with that pesky blue light emitted by a screen and which studies have shown can delay sleep.
The complete privacy of a written book is essential to me. If you are reading from an electronic device then there’s a high chance that “they” know what you are reading, and even how long it’s taking. I shudder at the thought! I want to read when I want to read, as long as I want without anything bothering me. I don’t want crafty computers calculating my reading habits just to serve up adverts encouraging me to buy more, and we are hindered by more unwanted ads while we read from our computers of iPads every passing year. REAL books do not interrupt the flow of the story. There’s no ‘ping’ from our Facebook or Twitter account telling us someone has posted about what they enjoyed for breakfast. Real books give us a silent read, and we are its master.
Jodie and the Library Card (Lulu Books) by Julie Hodgson is out now in paperback, priced £5.38. Visit www.jodieandthelibrarycard.com