Encyclopaedia, Myself
Comments 6

The Paperbook Blog


Because I love paper books. I am obsessed with them. I completely understand how impractical it is to literally own an entire library, rather than a library you can carry in your pocket, but there you go. A good friend forced me to download iBooks when I first got an iPhone, enthusiastically explaining to me how he could use it anywhere at any time; endless literature at the swipe of a fingertip. I subsequently downloaded a few of the free books, including a decidedly poor yet endlessly entertaining bodice-ripping thriller, Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure and Mahatma Ghandi’s Third Class in Indian Railways. I used the app a few times, mainly during work breaks or on the bus, but there was something about it that just felt wrong to me.

I felt like I was cheating on books.

So, sometime later when my phone was reaching maximum capacity, I happily deleted iBooks. I haven’t looked back since. Well meaning family members and friends have often offered to buy me a Kindle, or an eReader, or whatever else they are called these days. They think they are being exceedingly generous and thoughtful, bless them. It’s an obvious assumption to make; the girl likes to read, lets get her a reading device. It is cause for confusion when I gently suggest that they buy me a book instead, and maybe a bottle of wine if they really feel they must.

I know how amazingly awesome and practical these devices are, but give me a book any day. More specifically, give me a second hand book, one that is dog-eared and torn, and has an inscription in the front. Not an inscription to me, but an inscription that someone else made once upon a time, not realising that the book they so lovingly inscribed would soon be making its way to a second hand shop in exchange for a few bucks. I love inscriptions.

I also love being able to throw books into my bag, knowing they wont crack. I love being able to use them as coasters on my bedside table, leave them outside (accidently), read them in the bath with a glass of wine…hence why I buy second-hand books.

It probably says something about me as well that my most prized possession at the moment is my collection of Britannica Encyclopaedia’s. What a nerd. They have been handed down to me by my parents, who purchased them the year I was born from a travelling Encyclopaedia salesman. What a job. I remember growing up, researching projects for primary school using these heavy bad boys, looking things up in the index then writing longhand from the book. No copy and paste back then. Since the arrival of Encarta and then the internet I hadn’t given them much thought for years, until we were looking through old stuff and there they were. Full of old, crazy, somewhat useless information. I had to have them.

IMG_3969 IMG_3970

Aren’t they beautiful? They are a discussion point every time someone comes over, we generally end up grabbing them off the shelf at random and laughing over the hilarious, sombre and serious information they contain. I found some gems today, such as a painfully detailed article on the benefits of certain typefaces, specifically Serif versus San-Serif.

But the difficulty is that almost every study ever completed has indicated that san serif type is less easy to read…

Every study ever completed?

 Who got to decide what went into these things?


The language certainly speaks of a more formal, ponderous time, with amazing sentences such as:

These questions suggest that functionalism is not only incomplete without conflict theory but that it is one segment of a larger theory, of which the study of conflict is also an integral part.


Quite. And these were being sold to middle and upper classes across Australia, to do…what with exactly? As I say. I love it.

There is also a fantastic Britannica Atlas that comes with the set, containing beautifully detailed maps of the world, frozen in 1987. There is delightfully incorrect information such as the labelling of modern Cambodia, ‘Kampuchea’; a far more melodious name that was changed to ‘Cambodia’ in 1989.  I love having such detailed maps of the world which will grow slowly more and more incorrect as time goes on.


That’s the thing about technology, it is constantly updating itself so quickly that beautiful things like this will be lost, or delegated to some obscure corner of Google that is rarely visited. So that’s it. I love paper, cardboard, parchment, leather…whatever, books. I have nothing against the more streamlined libraries of new, they just aren’t for me. I’m not even one of those practical people who can combine their love of books with electronic versions. No, for me, the older, dustier and smellier the better. My Christmas presents are a lot cheaper too.



  1. Fantastic blog post – I totally know where you’re coming from! You’re so lucky to have an Encyclopaedia Britannica set – it must be full of fascinating entries.
    I too love old books. I often buy old, second-hand paperback novels instead of new ones as I love the old front covers, I love their smell, and I like the fact that they have a bit of a history to them – i.e. other people have held them and read them. You just don’t get any of that with electronic versions.

  2. Many books were replaced by e-books or websites on the internet, but I also like to read the books – the touch of paper and its feeling can’t replace by electronic.

  3. Pingback: Welcome to a new friend: Jayde-Ashe The Paperbook Blog | Hey Sweetheart, Get Me Rewrite!

  4. Pingback: Sans Serif. | The Paperbook Blog

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