Raiders of the lost ARC
I have screen-burn. Before the pandemic, I spent an unhealthy amount of my time sitting in front of laptop, in ways that were harmful to my posture and eyesight and mental health — but now, nineteen months in a lockdown where my laptop is also how I get groceries, see friends, attend meetings and “travel” to conferences, I am heartily sick of it.
I switch it up. I take walks (though fewer now that I did at the lockdown’s start, alas), I make short trips to shops (masked and anxious), I’ve even been to a small, out-of-town conference where masks and proof of vaccination were required.
Most of all, though, I read books. I lose myself in narratives and analysis, and I do it while holding an object that can only do one thing, that can’t interrupt me, that doesn’t tempt me to switch tasks. I don’t read as much or as often as I should or want to, but when I do, it is a gift I give to myself — a chance to use my eyes and brain and body in a different way that is both a pleasure unto itself and an opportunity to reset my screen burn so that I can return to all that nondiscretionary stuff I have to do at my laptop.
Paper books are great. The vertical book with a bound spine was a huge success from the start. From Wikipedia, citing 1987’s The Birth of the Codex (OUP): “The codex began to replace the scroll almost as soon as it was invented. In Egypt, by the fifth century, the codex outnumbered the scroll by ten to one based on surviving examples. By the sixth century, the scroll had almost vanished as a medium for literature.”
I am fully aware of all the deficiencies of paper books, relative to ebooks. They are unwieldy and heavy, they are difficult to warehouse and ship, you can’t search them or copy-paste them. I own many thousands of printed books and I have spent an ungodly amount of money, time and energy on the transportation, maintenance and care of these odd sheafs of pressed vegetable matter spattered with heavy-metal inks.
And yet, I love books.