01/02/2013 12:00 EST | Updated 03/04/2013 05:12 EST

Do We Need Paper Books Any More?


I recently cleared out 2,000 books from my home and donated them to various organizations. There were just so many books that my family had read and would never read again. It was a difficult mindset to get into, but I finally concluded that my house is a home and not a library. And you wouldn't believe how much room was freed up after this large-scale purge! To this point, does society need paper books any more? After all, there's a widespread availability of e-books -- and a treasure trove of free virtual information accessible to the wired world via the Internet.

Truth be told, I like the way a book feels in my hands, as I am lounging on a hot sunny beach during winter vacation. I like the weight of the book, and that the thickness of the book diminishes as I dive deeper into the tome. And I like the reward of flipping a page to mark my progress, and the passage of time. And in terms of aesthetics, I love falling in love with the cover of the book that I am about to read for the very first time. I also like bending back pages, inserting a bookmark, cracking the spine, and the new book smell.

But does reading have to be tied into the tactile sensations that I've mentioned, even though it's meant to be a cerebral experience?

Reading on my smartphone, tablet or e-reader doesn't give me the same thrill as reading an old-fashioned paper book. I don't like that the thickness of the device never varies, or the feeling of being a hamster on a wheel, as I make unchanging progress in the book. Although I see that the page number is advancing as I read, the antiquated part of me wants to see and feel physical evidence, in respects to a thicker front half of the book, and a thinner back half! To me, these are the "perils" of an e-reader, which won't be faced by the newest generation -- born with an iPod, instead of a silver rattle.

I've concluded that despite the tactile experiences that I enjoy while reading paperbacks, I'd much rather peruse e-books and do my research online. The idea of visiting a library and treasure-hunting through stacks of books for information, just holds no appeal to me. I simply don't have the time or interest. After all, an e-reader fits an entire library of books, magazines and newspapers into the device itself -- and is just as portable as the average paper book! Why would I stop by the bookstore, or visit the local library, when I can download the latest books in seconds or minutes? And must we really chop down forests of trees in the pursuit of paper books?

So back to the original question: does society need paper books any more? Paper books are so ingrained in us and our collective unconscious, that I doubt that they'll ever fully disappear from society. As a people, we're sentimentalists and historians -- and books will live on, if only for a memory or a relic. However, in the industrialized world, virtual books are the tidal wave washing over our bookstores, libraries, workforces, schools and families. So to answer the question, no, society doesn't need paper books any more and they're quickly on their way out. And we've now arrived at their final chapter...

What do you think? Does society need paper books any more? Do you read e-books, paper books or a combination thereof? Please leave a comment below!

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