SAFFIYAH EDOO

There is a raging debate among inveterate readers: which is better between print and digital? This remains a largely subjective choice. I, for one, am a print girl, for digital reading does not even come close to procuring the same sensations of holding a book, turning a page, sneaking a peek at the last pages, not to mention the effect that the fragrance of a book has.

The fact however remains that the move towards digital has opened up a vast array of reading materials that would not have been accessible, especially in Mauritius, otherwise. It would therefore be foolish to boycott digital reading material altogether. Had I done that, I would not have come across this wonderfully written article by Andrew Ferguson, published in The Atlantic in early April this year. I had hardly finished reading the title on my Facebook wall that I was already clicking on the link.

“There is no substitute for print” provides an account on how the author decides to revert to subscribing to the “home delivery of a daily newspaper” as an experiment. He goes on to describe his newly-found ritual of waiting for the newspaper to come by post, to retrieve it and sitting down and reading it. But it is not the mere ritual that moves the reader, rather the beauty with which the ritual is described, is what makes this article so pleasurable to read. This article is what the stuff of good writing and pleasurable reading is made of. The proof: at the final full stop of the article, the reader is in want for more and is sorry that the piece of writing is over, akin to the last page of a very good novel.

This particular article has not only brought to the surface the pleasure of reading but has also described the inconveniences of reading online, with pop-up ads, notifications, and what nots. It also successfully finds the appropriate words to describe my subjectivity towards print material: “A screen is many things all at once or in quick succession: The New York Times, Netflix, an auction house, a video of last summer’s vacation, a box of recipes, a text from a friend. The newspaper contains multitudes, but in the end, it is only itself.” And it is that “itself” that I crave when settling down to read.
In the context of World Book and Copyright Day, held on Tuesday 23rd April, there have been wide talks of the worrying trend of youngsters’ poor level of reading, how their writing and thought processes subsequently suffer, and that it is imperative that they turn to books. The print purist in me would endorse that argument but one should also not be blind to the fact that the world in which the average youngster lives in today, is made of other media of information and entertainment, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The wise way would be to expose the young person to anything that would feed his/her mind and drive towards a well-rounded human being and not impose what one feels should be the norm to drive towards same.

I remain a print defender, through and through, but will not remain shackled to that preference, though I will, as long as I can, favour print reading materials to digital ones. But for the sake of my ever-hungry heart for reading, I remain open to digital media, for who knows what treasures lie in these formats made of 0 and 1, that I would not be privy to, as this experience of reading Andrew Ferguson’s piece has proved.