Gemma Styles | Contributing writer | Saturday, 7 November 2015

Gemma Styles: Heres Some Proof That Nostalgia Isn\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'t Dead

Gemma Styles: Here's Some Proof That Nostalgia Isn't Dead

The Debrief: Amazon are launching an IRL book store - proof that our love of nostalgia will always win out?

Photograph by Matilda Hill-Jenkins

In the news this week, we heard that Amazon, online peddler of books and other miscellaneous wares, has opened up a store in Seattle selling actual books. Made of paper and everything. In a time where people are glued to their gadgets and freely throw around phrases like ‘but isn’t print dead?’ – this seems like a slightly backwards move.

After all, Amazon are the people behind the Kindle – it seems more likely that they would continue to push the electronic book sales, no? And you can't move for news stories about their new plans to develop tiny robot drones that will be delivering our packages within 45 minutes (or something like that.) So it stands to reason that they'd have made this foray into IRL books for a reason. Maybe books are back. Or maybe they never really went away. But what do you reckon, in the battle between Kindles vs actual books, who would win? 

There are plenty of good, practical reasons choose an electronic book over a printed one. For starters, there’s the space saving element. As our population continues to swell, physical space is at a huge premium, especially in the overcrowded cities of our relatively tiny country. If you’re paying waaaay over the odds for your London boxroom then chances are you don’t have ample free shelves to store your collection of much-loved literature. Holidays are another example – if you’re a quick reader (like my mum, for example, who will easily get through a book per day while laying by a pool) then using an unspecified e-reading device will save you valuable weight in your measly luggage allowance – as well as the space for at least a couple more swimming costumes. 

E-books also merit an environmental argument. Hundreds of millions of trees are used in print production each year – if you’re an avid reader then imagine the amount of paper saved by your device. Extend totals to include newspapers and that’s a catastrophic amount of trees being felled. E-readers also reduce material costs such as packaging, the amount of fuel required to print and ship, as well as pollution produced in transporting books to stores or your home. They also save money – both for companies and your average Joe consumer.

The environmental impact can, like most things, be argued; e-readers take more energy to produce, require electricity to use and also leave more waste to deal with once they’re relegated to the bin/dump/back of your kitchen mess drawer. I also heard an argument once that shelves lined with books on the walls in your home are great insulation and reduce heating costs. Go figure.

But despite all of this, I just can't ditch books. This may well be the nostalgic element but I loved reading from a young age; I can’t imagine children growing up in the future never experiencing the joys of picking up a book and getting engrossed in it. The stories might be the same but – it just wouldn’t be quite right. My best memories of reading have always been the Harry Potter books. When Goblet of Fire came out I got my copy in the morning and sat in bed ALL day reading it. Feeling the pages in your left hand start to outweigh the ones in your right is quite the sense of achievement when you’re young.  

Physical books can also be shared, and importantly, remembered. I think you’re more likely to reread favourite books when you can see them sitting in a pile rather than rarely stumbling across them at the bottom of an electronic list. Books can be shared. Handing down children’s books always makes me happy that new people will get to love the same stories that I did and in a swamp of Digital Rights Management and business strategies, it just isn’t that easy to do with e-books yet. Maybe in the future?

So I’m a bit torn. As much as I love me a good old-fashioned book book, if I’m feeling environmentally conscious then I struggle to make this outweigh the lovely carbon drinking trees that are hopefully still standing… For nostalgia’s sake it just might not be worth it. But if you are one of those people who will never let go of the printed word – check out @hotdudesreading on Instagram. Exactly what it says on the tin. No Kindles allowed.

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Follow Gemma on Twitter: @gemmaannestyles

Tags: Tech, Gemma Styles