Reading and Editing—Paper vs. Screen

I step into the library and find myself transported back in time. I’m five years old again, going to work with my grandmother, the librarian. A moment of perfect bliss—we had the whole library to ourselves, to slip among its aisles and know that any of those books would talk to me, tell me their stories, open themselves to me wholly, and that I would be all the richer for it. The rows and rows of books in all the colors of the rainbow became my playground. Even today I still love to see them stretching before me, to smell that familiar, comforting scent of old volumes, to run my fingers along textured spines. I revel in all their physicality.

And yet I almost never hold physical books anymore; I read their stories and information from a screen. Even when editing, I prefer to use a screen; in fact, I charge higher rates when asked to edit on paper.

Sometimes I miss the smell and feel of physical books, but I like the convenience of the screen. On screen, if I want to make a note, I can do it without marring the text itself and without hunting to find a separate piece of paper and a pencil. I can carry thousands of books with me wherever I go. When my eyes become strained after reading too long, I can zoom in on the text or change the brightness of the page. I can read in the dark with the brightness turned down low, allowing me to ready myself for sleep. I can’t do any of that with a physical book.

When editing on screen, I don’t have to grip a pen when my hands are painful; I can make tentative notes without marring the pages. And I find search and replace functions invaluable in checking for consistency or for the sometimes hard-to-see double spaces. Word macros and shortcuts allow for greater efficiency, cutting down on the time it takes to edit a manuscript. That saved time lowers the cost to me and to my clients.

Ebooks are also far more accessible than print books. Screen readers allow people who cannot read to enjoy books and information that used to be inaccessible to them. Those who need larger text can change the font size without trying to find a special edition. People with migraines can change the background color to make reading less painful. And those with arthritis in their hands don’t have to struggle to hold a book open; they can prop a tablet on a stand and be done with it.

These conveniences and, in some cases, necessities have changed me into an ebook reader. While I enjoy and the emotional comforts of holding a book like an old friend, I find the convenience and effectiveness of reading on screen well worth the loss of nostalgia.

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