Paperback isn’t dead

Physical books will always have a special place in my heart

An open paperback
PHOTO: Lily Rum / Unsplash

By: Saije Rusimovici, Staff Writer

Even though I love spending afternoons scrolling through the countless options of free e-books on Libby, there is something special about the feeling of scouring the library for the perfect read. You know: the book that fits perfectly in your hands, the texture and smell of its pages transporting you to another place entirely. It takes me back to the days where I used to visit the public library near my house, leaving with a bag of books so full that practically tipped me over on the walk home. An e-book is convenient, but a real book is an entire experience. Anyone who claims the digital e-book is going to completely replace print is entirely mistaken. 

The most obvious reason is books have a sentimentality to them that can’t be replaced. I treat the books on my bookshelf with care and attention, the space they take up in my room a sentiment to not only my interest in mystery and romance but a window into my inner personality. The books on my e-reader become faceless when I’m finished, disappearing into the depths of an invisible bookshelf. My physical copies are tear-stained and worn down from being flipped through so many times. 

The second is that the environmental impact of paperback has been overblown. A single e-reader’s carbon footprint is around 168 kg, whereas a book is equivalent to approximately 7.5 kg. According to these statistics, if an e-reader read 44 books on an electronic device this would halve its negative impact on the environment. A frequent reader that uses an e-book would significantly reduce their carbon footprint. 

Even if someone reads enough to reduce their carbon footprint with an e-reader, producing traditional books requires less materials. It takes the extraction of nearly 15 kg of minerals and uses about 300 litres of water to produce a single e-reader. Electronic waste is also a concern, because when it comes time for an e-reader to be replaced, they must be recycled properly in order to avoid improper disposal of toxic metals. 

While e-books tend to be cheaper than physical books, printed books do not necessarily need to be bought brand new. Thrift stores and second-hand bookstores are great places to reduce the amount of money you spend and support small businesses. Additionally, there are thousands of books that can be borrowed and returned to the library for free. 

Many of the books I own have been passed down through generations. Not only do they represent specific chapters of my life, but they reflect some of my deepest ambitions, emotions, and thoughts. Books connect me to the people I love, the places I hope to go, and the experiences I’ve lived. Reading an e-book just doesn’t compare to the feeling I get when I hold a physical novel.