For my birthday at the beginning of this month, I received many wonderful birthday greetings via email, Facebook, and as e-cards. A few days afterward, I opened my mailbox to find an envelope containing a card that my dear longtime friend Irene had sent me via regular post. Inside the card, along with aromatic dried rose petals, was a long letter. Unfolding it made me smile. Before emails became so prominent, she and I often mailed each other letters, and receiving this was like receiving a special gift.
Like most people, I have succumbed to sending emails as my major method of communication. I’ve been known to type letter-long emails to friends and family. I feel a certain satisfaction about the immediacy with which they receive my missive, and there’s an expectation that their replies will also be expedient.
Even though I’m not THAT old, I still remember the days before email and low cost long-distance phoning, and I was an avid correspondent to friends and family who lived some distance away. The beauty of that practice is that I have kept many of those letters, and thus have a documented record of who we were at that time in our lives. Now with emails that get deleted when they’ve been read, whole transcripts of interactions are lost.
I love to hold sheets of paper that someone has filled with words about things that matter to them and to me, and it wasn’t until I read Irene’s wonderful letter that I realized how much I missed receiving letters in the mail.
People express similar sentiments about e-books and print books. They claim that with e-books they miss the feel of a volume in their hands, the tactile process of turning pages, the smell of the print on the page.
Personally, as a matter of convenience, I read more books on my iPad than I do print books. From an aesthetic perspective, I love the sight of book-filled shelves with all those strikingly coloured spines, and I still love holding a book with a beautiful cover and flipping through pages to find a passage I want to reread. But what really matters to me is the message that the book, or letter or email for that matter, conveys.
So while the tactile experience of reading a printed book or paper letter gives me pleasure, it is the reading of the words that truly feeds my soul.
I still type long emails. I prefer to write my novels using a computer than with pen and a pad of paper. I will read a book in any format I acquire it. And I will reply to Irene’s letter by writing her an equally long one and sending it off in the mail.
How about you? Do you prefer a screen or paper? Or does it matter?