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In defense of real books

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Do you need another screen in the age of distraction? We debate in the latest episode of Versus

The latest trend in tech appears to be hating tech, whether that means breaking up with our phones, taking breaks from online news (if that’s what you call a “break”), or disavowing Facebook. Some of this tech backlash is deserved and long overdue. In just the span of a decade, some of us have become unhealthily attached to our products and services while the tech companies that make them profit off our so-called addictions. But some of this desire to rage against the blue light of our screens feels like a futile attempt to keep tech out of our lives in places where it’s now inevitable.

One of the tactics I’ve used in recent months to force myself to take a break from screens is to buy more real books (something Recode’s Kara Swisher and I talked about in this two-part podcast series about tech addiction). I know, I know: real books, how obvious and twee. But there’s something to be said about having a stack of books lying around, aside from the guilt that may come with not finishing them. I’m now much more inclined to pick up one of these when I have a few free minutes instead of my phone. And there’s also something to be said for distraction-free reading; I have yet to receive a single text message or Slack notification directly on the paper book I’m reading.

Those kinds of notifications don’t pop up on Kindles, either, so that’s not to say that Kindles contribute to our distraction problems. Kindles are also wonderful for making books and all kinds of text immediately accessible to people, a digital consolidation of that stack of books sitting on your nightstand. But it’s also another screen, another thing to connect to the internet, and another thing to charge. So in this week’s Versus, we debate the value of having an entire digital library at your fingertips, versus dog-eared pages and siloed reading.