literary deathmatch

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In the world of PSYCHO-PASS, paper media has virtually vanished. Makishima Shogo, the central villain of the series, tells his partner that reading a physical book provides his senses with a soft reboot. Books are tactile. Books have an odor. Used books have a history like people do, where the wear and tear of life eventually shows on the surface. The oil and sweat from our fingertips warms and warps pages, and the spine creases where our favorite page is (or just the page we always fall asleep reading).

Scientific American cites several studies that tout the benefits of paper reading. Brains use many different pathways to interpret written text. The placement of text on a page, and the feel of raised ink on paper potentially affects our ability to remember and retain what we’ve read. It sounds more flowery than scientific, but there’s at least consensus that reading long-form text seems to be easier with physical paper, partially because it’s easier to annotate and flip through, and partially because digital reading often involves competing with eye strain and glare.

I read digitally as a matter of convenience. I grew up in apartment buildings, where the need to eventually move discouraged book hoarding. I rent e-books from the library and read them on my phone or Kindle. I do own a few books–mostly comic books, as their illustrative detail, and various panel sizes and placement, feels wholly oriented toward physical consumption. Webtoons and webcomics are different beasts, and they’re created with digital consumption in mind.

If given a choice, and absent any financial or space constraints, I’d read a physical book. It’s one of very few pre-digital habits I don’t mind keeping around. The only issue for me, now that I’m a stressed out adult with a full-time job, is finding the time to read.