Books Magazine

A Pledge to Read the Printed Word

By Russellvjward @russellvjward
I made a solemn pledge last year... A pledge to read the printed word.
I didn't swear the pledge in front of a row of witnesses, write it in my own warm blood, or chant it before the high altar of grave and earnest oaths, but it was serious and it was well intentioned. I would support the printed word in the face of emerging digital technologies and increasingly electronic print.
Then I bought an iPad in the autumn. Followed by a Kindle at Christmas.
I'd sold out. Betrayed the very cause I believed in. And no doubt helped contribute to the demise of the blessed book. Or so I thought.

A Pledge to Read the Printed Word

Photo credit: Alan Cleaver (Creative Commons)

 
The printed word is important 
Online conversation would have us believe we're destined to live in a world of electronic words with little or no role for the age-old printed word. Given this, how soon will it be before there is no printed word? One day will we read online only? Will the world's libraries shrink or, worse, disappear? Will the book cease to exist?
Depressing, isn't it? But the printed word is too important to die out.
Sundays aren’t Sundays without a coffee and the weekend paper. Would we sit at the kitchen table, each family member lost in their individual, personalised, applicationised tablet or e-book reader?
A world without libraries is a world without mystery and enchantment, a world without sanctuary for the devoted and dedicated reader, a world without a place to fill our heads with hope that extraordinary life exists far beyond those four walls. Surely this could never be?
And reading in print form is a welcomed and refreshing change from staring bog-eyed at an electronic screen throughout the day... isn't it?
A world without books
A world without books is a travesty.
Books are the very essence of reading and of escapism - not just the words they carry on their fragile pages but the vivid dreams they bring to bear. I can readily escape into the depths of a book but I cannot hide within the hard skin of a plastic e-reader.
The book is tactile. It is comforting to the touch. Its weighty feel. Its supple cover. The crinkle of the pages as they're turned and the delightful smell that emits from those pages.
Whereas the Kindle is slim and sleek. Modern and purposeful. Cold and calculating in its determination to deliver the electronic word seamlessly to you. It is a different beast altogether.
Imagine entering a house where hundreds of books are on display. You learn about the person who owns these books. In a house where you browse the shelves for your own favourite reads, you find another's choices and understand a little something of their character or personality, likes and dislikes. An electronic reader doesn't tell you anything. A iPad might only say "look at me".
Now here's the rub.
I actually quite like my Kindle and I think my iPad is a revelation.
When I travel, the Kindle fits neatly in my backpack. It weighs less than a book yet can carry umpteen books inside. It's an easy and convenient read when sat on the beach, lying in my garden hammock, or squeezed up next to someone on the bus. It is a revolution of sorts.
My iPad is the essence of Apple. It is beautifully designed. It is technologically sublime. It is entertainment personified and it has its place in a corner of my world.
But neither will ever replace my passion for the common book.
I understand there's a place for the Kindle, the Nook, the iPad, the Next Big Thing, but they won't - and can't - move me from my love of the printed word. I haven't lugged this precious cargo of books from country to continent, city to town, only to give it all up at the first sign of a fight.
Renewing my pledge
So we come back to the pledge...  to read the printed word.
The pledge supports the printed word in all its forms: newspapers, magazines, and of course, books.
The pledge thinks that reading on computers or phones or whatever is fine, but it cannot replace the experience of reading words printed on paper.
The pledge is a commitment to continuing to read the printed word in the digital era and beyond.
So I'm sorry, dear Kindle, dear iPad, dear Nook, I may enjoy your company but you're show stealers, not trusted lifelong friends. It's therefore time to renew my commitment to the printed word... Because I couldn't imagine a world without one, could you?
Do you have a Kindle? Do you prefer the printed word? Or do you enjoy both? Have you taken the pledge? 
Let me know how you feel below.
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