I love books, reading is one of my favourite things to do, so I’ll be celebrating World Book and Copyright Day on Saturday installed on my couch doing some serious reading. It’s not surprising that I love books, our house when I was growing up was full of books, they filled a surprising number of boxes when we moved house. When I say surprising I mean that it surprised the moving men who asked my mother “have you read all these”. She has, mostly.
So why are books important?
They’re a source of information, the ultimate in “long form” content. The content can go deeper, offer alternative theories, and expound an argument in a way that a blog post or article never will. A common criticism is that books are “out of date” by they time they’re published, it’s a fair call in some subjects, but there are books I value and return to a decade after they were published. No article has ever had that impact.
Books, particularly fiction, are a source of escape, the cheapest way to travel to new worlds. It’s a form of escapism that’s legal and (relatively) cheap. It’s also good for your brain, reading fiction improves your brain connectivity and increases empathy. Regular reading reduces stress, and it can be a useful distractor in times of stress.
Books are one of my favourite decorating ideas, and research shows that children from homes with books do better academically. And there’s a long accepted link between literacy and a country’s development, so much so that Mao changed the written form of the language to make it easier to learn.
What about digital?
I was a hold out on the digital front, preferring the reading experience of paper. But I caved and bought a kindle a few years ago, and was converted, and oh the convenience – I can carry the four books I’ll read on a long haul flight, or the 12 books I’m using for research and work anywhere. I usually read more than one book at a time, and now I can carry all with me.
Lots of people love the feel and smell of books and swear they’ll never change and there’s some research out there suggesting that retention from reading paper is higher. But it is possible to love both, it’s the content that’s the magic.
Postscript; it’s the official World Book Day tomorrow, but it is celebrated in March in many countries as it fits better with the school year.
Image: Some of the books on the shelves in my house; the business books section.