Marginalia and the Endurance of Print Books

bookloveOne Millennial explains why he’ll “never give up reading real books.” We haven’t heard this answer before, and we love it.

“Once in a while, I go through the process of deciding which books to donate, but usually the idea of parting with a book feels like giving away a part of my soul.”

These words, penned by book geek and self-described millennial MJ Franklin in Mashable, sum up the feelings of many of his generation. He cites Dr. Baron’s study that found 92% of students prefer print for serious reading as proof that he’s far from alone in his preference for traditional printed books.

The idea leaves some in the tech industry baffled, Franklin notes, including Mashable’s tech guru Lance Ulanoff.

“’Ebooks, whether on an e-reader, an iPad or a smartphone, are a vastly more convenient experience than physical books and are most certainly the way of the future,” Franklin quotes Ulanoff as saying.

The way of the future? It would seem not: Last year e-book sales slumped while print rebounded.

“According to a Publisher’s Weekly report, bookstore sales actually grew in 2015. Last year saw $11.17 billion in total sales, up from 2014’s $10.89 billion,” Franklin notes.

Franklin thinks he knows one reason why, and he doesn’t believe it can be attributed simply to romance for the old medium.

“Since Amazon debuted the Kindle in 2007, the e-reader has evolved tremendously. You can get small e-readers, waterproof e-readers, e-readers with touch screens, e-ink e-readers, all designed to make carrying a story as easy as possible,” he writes.

“But there is one thing they can’t yet contain, something near to many a book lover’s heart: Marginalia.”

“For me, marginalia is about creating a deeper connection with the story at hand. When I write in a book, I am making a statement. That this book affected me. This book moved me so much that I want my reaction to be preserved for as long as this copy exists.

“In this way, a book transforms from a vessel for an author to tell a story into a time capsule for the reader. That’s what makes sharing books with friends so intimate.”

At the end of the day, Franklin says he doesn’t read for convenience. If that were the case then, yes, the iPad he bought then gave away might be his reading platform of choice.

“I read to learn more about the world and myself. I have made friends by seeing a book cover in a cafe and noticing that it was the same title that I was reading. I can trace my life by the books that have been my companions during difficult times.”

There is something profound in what Franklin is experiencing. For my part I have no qualms in deleting an ebook from my Kindle. If I ever need it again I know where to get it, but I doubt I ever will. Yet my favorite books will always surround me in print. It’s an experience that can’t be replicated on a glass screen.