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In the Internet Age, Revisiting Paper Books

   E-books are one of the most important inventions of the late 20th century. With e-books, we can find any knowledge, information and ideas we want to know, and it is easy to store without taking up space. By comparison, bulky and heavy paper books look outdated. But for some people, paper books are irreplaceable.

  Tang Lixin, a high school history teacher in Guangdong, can read almost only paper books. "The reason is probably the so-called sense of ritual. I like to turn over the yellowed paper of old books, or smell the ink from the new book when unpacking it. This is the feeling I don't have when reading e-books." He said . Tang Lixin will read the electronic version only when the paper book is not around, or when there is no way to buy the paper version.

  Zhou Zhengma, an archaeology enthusiast, said that when he reads short articles and novels, he uses his mobile phone, but when he reads monographs or serious content, he chooses paper books. Zhou Zhengma believes that e-books are only suitable for reading some recreational content, while paper books are easy to read back and forth, compare before and after, help thinking, and make reading notes.

  "When reading on a mobile phone, it's easy to get distracted. A message on social media is likely to take me away. When I think about the time to read, half an hour has passed." Zhou Zhengma He believes that reading paper books allows him to stay focused and think more deeply.

  As different carriers, e-books and paper books reflect different cultures. E-books often represent pop culture and fast food culture, while paper books are thick, profound, and have the power to calm people down.

Reading, only about reading itself


  Nowadays, in the streets, in the square and in the park, if someone is holding a book and reading, he becomes the scenery, and many people will take out their mobile phones and take pictures. American photographer Steve McCurry took a group of photos of reading subjects. Born in 1950, McCurry is a well-known photographer who has worked as a war correspondent, shooting scenes of the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, and the Lebanese Civil War, and nearly lost his life twice.

  "Most of my photos are based on people. I look for those moments of unsuspecting, the soul they reveal, the experience etched into their face. I try to convey the feeling of that person." McCurry once said said.

  In this group of works, the subjects are in different places, such as India, Afghanistan, Yemen, Kuwait, China, Italy, Cuba... "Whether rich or poor, young or old, or from different Cultural background, people like to read, it is part of our life as human beings." McCurry said in an interview with the media.

  Reading has nothing to do with the environment. Whether in Kuwait during the Gulf War in the 1990s, or in Washington Square Park in New York, USA, there are people who are fascinated by reading; reading has nothing to do with time, day or night, there are always people reading with books; reading has nothing to do with identity , whether it is a social elite or a delivery boy, a healthy person or a disabled person, they can be seen reading.

  On Douban, there is a topic called "the reading scene that makes you feel the most profound in reality". Netizens shared the photos they took: an old man sitting on the side of the road reading a book late at night, a scavenger standing in the subway with three big bags full of discarded plastic bottles hanging on his arms, but holding books in both hands and selling fruits The peddler sits on the next steps and reads a book, and the old woman knelt under the reading column of the street newspaper and copied the contents of the newspaper...

return to traditional reading


  In megacities like Beijing and Shanghai, commuting time of more than one hour is a common phenomenon. In the subway, almost everyone uses their mobile phones, and few people read. There are one or two readers sporadically, which always attracts admiration from the people around.

  In contrast, the reading groups in foreign subways are even larger. On Zhihu, a netizen studying in the UK said that the poor subway signal is an important reason why foreigners like to study on the road. In China, from first-tier cities to small villages, the network signal is very good, and the mobile Internet is developed. You can pay, order takeaways, shop, play games, and watch short videos. The time spent on mobile phones has unknowingly increased. A research team from McGill University in Canada studied the mobile phone usage of a total of 34,000 people in 24 countries from 2014 to 2020, and found that China, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia are the top three countries addicted to mobile phones. The findings will be published online in December 2021 in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.


New York Public Library, New York, USA.


Kuwait.


Afghanistan, Kabul.


Ethiopia, Omo Valley.


Pakistan, Peshawar.


  The national reading survey organized by the China Press and Publication Research Institute found that in 2020, the per capita paper book volume of Chinese adult citizens is 4.7, and the per capita electronic reading volume is 3.29. The Pew Research Center in the United States found that the average American reads 12 books a year; the Royal Mail of the United Kingdom released a report in 2019 that the average British read 10 books a year.

  Today, it is easier to obtain books on the Internet with little time and money cost. But people read less. Writer Wu Lichuan once said in an article that the time when he had no money to buy books was the hardest time for him to study. He once spent only two days reading the first, middle, and second books of "The Legend of the Condor Heroes" borrowed from classmates. "The book cannot be read unless it is borrowed."

  With the development of the Internet, various programs for listening to books and book reviews have emerged. People think it is more convenient to "read" in this way, but it cannot replace reading the original works. "There are a thousand Hamlets in the eyes of a thousand people", when the content is relayed from other people's mouths, it has changed. Even if the anchor did not re-create, his tone and pause would not be exactly the same as what he understood when he read the original book.

  There used to be such a painting on the Internet. A circle with a hole in the middle was cut out from the book, and it was painted like a CD. There was a text next to it: When the book became a TV series, I always felt that something was missing. Freelance writer Li Ruyi describes reading audio programs as "lossy compression."

  In 2019, McCurry posted a passage on social media from Charles Scribner IV, the head of the publishing company: "Reading is a means of thinking with someone else's brain, it forces you to stretch your own mind." Those who still hold the book , grows slowly in the process of dialogue with the great soul.


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