Bear with me, as I’m about to metaphor. (It’s a verb now.)
A couple of years ago, I finally tried oil painting. It was awesome (maybe in part thanks to the fumes). The thing is, materials are expensive and oil painting is not very good for the environment. So, with the help of my trusty Wacom tablet, I decided to try digital painting instead.
Corel Paint Shop Pro does an incredible job of mimicking natural effects, right down to the blurring in watercolor. By all accounts it’s a great substitute.
I hate it. I can just never get myself to treat it the same way, but for the sake of the environment (and my $75 investment) I’ve been trying it. I’ve even got myself to not mentally bitch about it quite so much.
And then I painted the deck. Just holding a brush and feeling the strokes was infinitely more satisfying than sitting there in front of a computer with a completely artificial surface. And it’s the same with sketching: in spite of layers, in spite of having infinitely more editing options…drawing by hand is great. Hearing the pencil scratch across rough paper is great. Above all, seeing the little trail of graphite and all those shadows is–you guessed it–great.
Touch and sight are more connected than most people seem to realize. The digital world might be infinitely manipulable and much more sustainable in the long run, but people need tactility. Maybe it’s society, maybe it’s the sheer fact that human development has encoded a very strong grasping instinct–but as long as we’ll exist, we’re going to want to touch things.
And that’s why books aren’t going away. No e-reader will ever recreate the smell of a freshly opened book, the sound of the turning pages, and the slight roughness under the fingertips.