Before I proceed, let me make one thing clear. I am no technology hater. I have an iPod; I have a laptop. I use an internet phone service. I use bluetooth; I save things to a jump drive. I know how to use Excel and Photoshop. I blog, for crying out loud. I have five e-mail addresses, and use them all extensively. I have an online picture account and am LinkedIn. I can do a powerpoint, a screen capture, a screencast. I have even uploaded to YouTube. I love all of it.
Even so, nothing beats an old-fashioned, wood pulp, paper-based, physical, touchable book. Oh, sure, I have a Sony Reader. And it's a gem for taking on vacation. Those whole suitcases full of books are not only hard on the arms, but they're charging excess baggage charges for them now. I listen to books on audio in my car because, let's face it, society frowns on people who read while driving. But sometimes I a need an actual book.
Not to be a stickler, but a book, by definition, is paper. To be precise, most of the accepted definitions and common usages of the word "book" involve bound paper. Even going back to the Olde English root, a book was a written charter. Written on paper. Yes, I know nowadays it can mean to place a bet (on paper?) and to run fast (OED doesn't have that one, but I'll concede).
I want to curl up with a book - one you can hold in your hand, feel the texture of paper as you turn a page, and smell the faint, musty foxing or the sharp inky newness. I want to use the bookmark my children made out of construction paper. If you fall asleep while reading a book, you don't run down the battery or waste electricity (or electrocute yourself). I want to be able to lend a book with my name in the cover. I want to know that the lendee will care for it and return it with the cover unsullied, the spine unbroken and the pages un-dog-eared. I want to read someone else's book and feel their presence on it. This exchange is a metaphysical exercise in trust and sharing. I want to feel ownership of a volume in a way that cyberspace will never satisfy.
A backpack full of books is a badge of honor and perseverance. It's noble somehow.
Read a book - recycle a tree.