Roman philosopher, Marcus Tullius Cicero said, “A room without books is like a body without a soul”, no one ever said such a thing about a room without a Kindle! Video killed the radio star, will E-readers do away with print?
The first method of printing applied to paper, thanks to the Buddhists of East Asia, was Woodblock printing circa 200 AD. The first movable-type was invented in 1041, by a chap Wiki calls a commoner, Bi Sheng. The man invented movable-type, fired in porcelain no less, hardly common! Somewhere between 1115 and 1234, metal movable-type was used to print official documents and currency, by both the Jin and Song Dynasty’s. However, movable-type printing would not become the in thing in Europe for another 300 years.
Enter Johann Gutenberg. In 1440, Gutenberg adapted and developed already existing screw press technology, to create the mechanical printing press. The press was interchangeable, durable, accelerated, and precise; printing was revolutionised, and became the pillar of western civilisation. The first thing printed at Gutenberg’s workshop is believed to be a German poem. The second, a 42-line Bible, known as the Gutenberg Bible, 180 copies were made; with some surviving to this day. Books led to the scientific revolution, and the age of enlightenment, E-readers lead to chargers and plug points. Real books are just better!
Did you ever lose yourself in a book? Become so invested you couldn’t put it down? So submerged you had to lock yourself away, no noise, no distractions, just you; the rustling of pages and the written word. For me it was Imajica by Clive Barker, I was 11 and far too young to be reading it. I was utterly hypnotised by the fantasy Clive Barker had created, so caught up in the fantastical, I left my bedroom only to answer the call of nature, and once to raid my grandmothers’ kitchen. I pinched 6 packets of Walkers crisps, some Panda pop, 1 loaf of bread, 3 Wagon Wheels and a small box of broken biscuits; provisions half inched, I wouldn’t leave my room for the duration. Barker’s Imajica was full of imagery my young mind could barely compute, macabre, confusing, beautiful.
I felt real frustration when the narrative didn’t go my way, slept fitfully, and dreamt in childlike technicolour of the chapters I’d just read, those dreams felt so real. 27 years later, my copy of Imajica sits sandwiched between a lifetime of well-read and well-worn tombs on a shelf in my living room. Now and then I take it down, the pages over time have yellowed. I look fondly at the faint creases in the corners of certain pages, hasty bookmarks made before dashing to the bathroom, and that one trip to raid my grandmother’s kitchen. I smell the pages and nostalgia hits me like a wave. I hear my long-passed grandmother’s voice calling up from time to time, asking if I’m still alive, demanding I come down for dinner, I didn’t. I remember how the tip of my index finger became a little sore, I licked it to turn each one of the 1136 pages. There’s a great big chocolatey smudge on page 534, I fell asleep with the book on my chest, between the book and myself, a half-eaten Wagon Wheel. I recall the little cramps I got in my neck and hands, while sitting in the same position for hours, drinking in each word. Each time I take my copy of Imajica off the shelf, I’m 11 again, instantly transported by sense memory. That’s why books and the printed word in my opinion will never die, you just don’t get that from an E-Reader!
A good book and a glass of wine, can be so relaxing it’s therapeutic. Having trouble sleeping? You should develop the habit of reading a real book before bed. A night time reading ritual can aid with getting a good night’s sleep, sending your body a signal that it’s time to enter the land of nod, you won’t be nodding off any time soon if reading digitally. Studies by Gianluca Tosini, a professor at the Morehouse School of Medicine, have shown Blue Light, the wavelength used in most computers, tablets, and smartphones; disrupts the body clock.
Exposure to Blue Light in the evening can slow and prevent the production of Melatonin, the sleep hormone. No surprise there, and who wants to read The Pickwick Papers while fending off work emails, Facebook notifications, and Candy Crush invites? A study by Norway University Scholar Anne Mangen, published in 2012, found that those who read texts in print, scored significantly better on recall and reading comprehension tests than those who read texts digitally. When asked why she thought the study had yielded the results it did, Mangen said, “When you read on paper, you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages growing on the left, and shrinking on the right. You have the tactile sense of progress, in addition to the visual. The difference for Kindle readers, might have something to do with the fixity of text on paper, and the very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story is some kind of sensory offload; supporting the visual sense of progress when you’re reading”. Print isn’t dead folks, there’s no comparison. E-readers are cold and impersonal, they’ve no smell, no memories of gran, and absolutely no charm!