In praise of the printed word

by Steve

I’ve been absolutely demolishing books lately. Not literally, of course. I mean, book-burning is kind of frowned upon, isn’t it? No, I’ve just been reading and reading and reading. I guess it is the one plus-side to a niggly, long commute. I suspect that a number of truly wonderful books for Christmas has helped too. As has finally addressing the many unread books already occupying the ever-decreasing shelf space. And, er…me buying some more.

Or maybe it is just a phase. I do always read. A lot. But the medium isn’t always the same. Sometimes I just have to read a newspaper every day. Other times I realise I get most of my news online (although it’s not the same), or find my brain rotting from reading the free newspapers handed out in London and decide enough is enough.

Other times I’m all over magazines and, for want of a better word, journals. There is some fantastic magazine design out there – Wire magazine, in particular, and the late, lamented Plan B. There’s also some genuinely great writing hiding away in your old periodicals. The New Yorker is always a wonderful, informative and luxurious read. The New York Review of Books is similarly brain-nourishing. But it’s not all about mags from the Big Apple – how about When Saturday Comes and World Soccer, for pretty much peerless football coverage? Or Private Eye, still great after all these years?

But then, after a while, I realise that as immediate and bite-sized and shiny as magazines are, it is a good book that I really crave. A book that demands to be read, to be devoured. The sort of book that leaves you with a sense of loss when it’s over, because you just can’t read it anymore, that the story of those characters (real or imagined) has now finished.

And in an age of iPhones, iPads and all that jazz, and working in a role that falls directly under the banner of, ahem, ‘new media’, it’s interesting to me that all of this ‘old media’ still brings so much joy. These print formats are still vital to me. There is nothing quite like the feel, touch, smell, experience of books, magazines and newspapers.

Don’t get me wrong, I love computers and would be lost without the internet. But nothing will replace flicking through a newspaper in a pub, or a magazine in the garden on a sunny day, or an old book, curled up indoors on a winter’s night. Long may these simple pleasures last.

Image from Jasoon via Flickr