Displays, the great bane of electronic devices, have also improved over the last years and Kindle and others have managed to simulate paper like qualities and appearance. Yet still, I dislike them with a passion.
The reason of my annoyance with electronic books may be simple however. They don't smell. This may sound odd and slightly OCD but it is something that falls into the category which others describe as 'the experience of reading'. For many, including me, reading is not just about a string of letters and words, it is about an experience that opens up another world and, strangely enough, the odour of book glue and acid coming from the pages are an integral part of it.
|Can you smell the reading?|
German books for example have moved to acid free paper which is a real downer for me. American hardbacks are still a blast in terms of their smell and books from the 1950s and 1960s which have lingered in public libraries for decades (often unread) are the pinnacle of joy. Nothing compares to the blend of collected dust and heavy paper acid!
This may sound very obsessive compulsive but I think part of it can be explained by the fact that reading is actually (in evolutionary terms) a very un-human activity. It requires concentration and cognitive skills applied to a string of horizontal letters which is biologically alien to us. It takes something special to keep us reading, in other words, and that something for me is the accompanying smell of the pages which forms part and parcel of the reading experience. In fact, the odour of a book often becomes part of the story that unfolds on the pages. I think I may even remember John Dos Passos U.S.A. simply by the smell that come from its bend pages of the ancient Penguin edition I have.
I guess as long as there are people like me out there, printed books will have a future.