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In Praise Of: Paper Books

Let's go!

Let’s go!

We can probably sum this entry up with one word: duh. But, let’s take a few more anyhow.

After hearing that the Gateway books (The Heechee Saga) by Frederik Pohl were going to be turned into a television series, it made me curious to re-read the books. I read them for the first time in high school, so it seemed time to revisit them. Of course revisiting things we loved in our youth can be dicey — as was this experience — but as I tore through them, I realized something: I have missed reading actual paper books.

I’ve only had my tablet about a year (a Nexus 7), and apparently I’ve done more reading on it than I realized. Counting the books up, last year I read 26 paper books and 29 ebooks. This year, I’ve read 11 paper books and 13 ebooks. We’re pretty neck in neck, again! Though five of those paper books are Gateway alone.

But in reading Gateway, it made me aware all over again of how pleasant an experience it is, to look at words on a page and not words on screen. Especially when I spend so much of my day looking at a screen already for editing and writing, both of which involve, uh, reading!

How nice it is to feel the weight of a book in my hand and not the weight of a tablet. How nice to look at paper and not another glowing box. There were some adjustments, tucking into a long series in paper, mostly that I didn’t have the clock in the upper right corner and I couldn’t press a word I didn’t know to get a definition. Thankfully, the dictionary also comes in a paper format!

Some books are also just a joy to hold; the ARC of Colson Whitehead’s The Noble Hustle has baby-soft paper, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the gorgeous deckled edge on Catherynne Valente’s The Habitation of the Blessed. Paper books also have small touches that ebooks don’t often; little bits of art scattered here and there, special fonts, and well, the smell of paper.

It’s the same when it comes to writing; writing with pen and paper is vastly different for my creative mind than typing the words. When I am plotting a story, it’s usually pen and notebook before me; when I am drafting, that’s when I’m typing.

There remains something magic about paper and ink, and I’m glad to have rediscovered it.

(And if you haven’t read Gateway, I’d definitely recommend it — it’s such a delight, especially the first novel. The first three are actually pretty peachy, though I was surprised at how much doesn’t happen in two and three — everything I was interested in was condensed to the back end of the books! In any case, though I haven’t yet tackled The Boy Who Would Live Forever, a very late entry in the series, and definitely raise my eyebrow at some of the women in the series, it remains a favorite SF universe to visit — and it’s equally interesting to read Pohl’s notes about black holes, and how our knowledge of them changed while he was writing the books! The short story collection is also fully illustrated by Frank Kelly Freas and is a fabulous, fabulous, fabulous thing.)

Get in my hands!

Get in my hands!