What scent do digital newsletters have?

a palpable wonder

Newspaper fire orange

It was laying there on top of my grandfather’s desk. It was no longer as shiny as it used to be, as it was accompanied by a stain of coffee, my grandfather must have misplaced while bending over to read the headline. Pages after pages, words playing with each other in a sort of dance, placing themselves in order to make sense and create a descriptive sentence on what seemed to me at that time an immense page of paper. Slowly, curious, and excited, I stretched over the table and reached out to grab it myself.

And so, I came into contact with my first newspaper. Having watched my grandfather devour each and every word, as his pupils would travel from phrase to phrase behind his thick lenses, I came to be very fond of the tactile experience reading would provide me. Apart from the intellectual devour of dissappering in a book’s story line or learning about what is happening in countries beyond one’s own location, I always appreciated the physicality of reading. Touching a paper, feeling every little uneven part, the different materials it was made of and comparing the scent of a new book with that of an old one. There is something about old books and their scent…it is as if you could almost smell their age, their wisdom and the knowledge their pages hide…

So you can only imagine what digital newsletters did to me. At first, I did not notice the lack, that a crucial component was missing. I was immersed in the unlimited possibilities, the incredible network the online world was offering me. At one glance: every newspaper in the world was one click away. From the Romanian news to the American ones, to the Indonesian ones. Every source of information I desired was accessible. Yet, like many of my colleagues have already discussed in their previous blog posts, this immense pool of information also comes with an overwhelming feeling.

Soon, I was swamped by all the broadcasting websites notifying me of what happened in the world: another tragedy in X, another political scandal in Y and another economic crisis in Z. News, news and news and somehow they were always alarming. The idea that one has to be always on top of things, know about everything and everyone just does not fit with our human capacities. Personally, I am a very emphatic person, so having to always put myself into the shoes of the people experiencing these tragedies got very tiring at some point. I hit a digital low. The immense information pool dried out my thirst for information all together.

At first, I felt guilt. Guilt was the dominant feeling, since I considered myelf ungrateful for the opportunity the internet gave me, yet at the same time I felt a persistent feeling of emptiness. My passion for reading, for discovering, for experiencing my medium by touching and holding it had also been replaced.

There are many scientific explanations of what the advantages of reading a physical book are in comparison to digital literature (if you are interested in more read the following article), such as that it is better for the eyes or that one recalls more information. I do no however want to demolish the incredible advances and positive aspects that digital literature brings with itself: wider access, larger collections, and more diverse literature, not to mention the fact that the internet enables anyone to be a writer themselves, just like I am pretending to with this blog post.

The fact that both mediums have their strenght and weaknesses, does not affect their overall integrity and wide range usage. I do however prefer one over the over.

I would be very interested to know what sort of relationship do you have with digital media. Do you miss the tactile experience? Or was it maybe from the beginning on a distraction and the lack of it only enhances the mere informative character that newspapers should have?