Why paper books are best for creativity

Using physical books over digital ones has one benefit for the creative mind that ebooks can never fully match.

Of course, the debate over which format is better – for your brain or your eyeballs – has gone on since ebooks first became mainstream.

Ebooks are more accessible, you can buy and crack open a new book in under a minute, and you can carry an entire library with you wherever you go thanks to technologies like Amazon’s Kindle.

Physical books, on the other hand, feel more valuable because of their very real weight, they provide a sensory experience involving not only the words on the pages but also the smell of them and the feeling of turning a page as you progress through the book.

For a long time I’ve been torn between buying digital books or physical ones for exactly these exact reasons.

But, as of a few months ago, I’ve started purchasing and reading only paper books because the value of being able to physically see the books is tremendous for me as a creative thinker.

This is something you just can’t get with digital books, where the books are stored in some otherworldly “cloud” you have to go to every time you want to flip through your library. And that’s only if you have a connection to the Internet.

It turns out that the ability to walk past a library, or a series of stacked books, can do some tremendously helpful things for your creative brain.

We already know from scientific research that our brains see details we don’t consciously recognize. Potentially more than 200 billion details every second. And we know that those details influence the ideas we are able to generate every day.

Books represent entire networks of ideas in our minds (assuming we have read the books). Seeing the cover of a book can be a small spark that leads us to recall countless insights within the pages of the book.

Being able to glance at the covers or spines of the books in my personal library, as they lay stacked in my bedroom and main room, often causes my brain to subtly recall insights from the books that I may have otherwise not remembered. Often times simply seeing the colors of a book cover is enough to make me briefly stop and say: “Oh yeah, I read that earlier in the year, I really liked the part about…”

These are thoughts and insights I otherwise would fail to have if all of my books existed in a place I had to manually go to any time I wanted to remember what I have read. Instead, I wake up every day and the books are there to spark ideas in my mind. When I get home from work at the end of the day, I walk past that library and who knows what ideas are dug-up from the depths of my mind as a result.

And thanks to these books, the ability to remind my subconscious of insights I’ve gleaned from the books I’ve read is something that I can always have, as long as I have my library.

There is certainly still immense value to having ebooks, but for me, I’m going to stick to physical, paper books as often as possible. The ability to spark an insight just by physically being in my presence is too great.

Speaking of physical books, have you pre-ordered my upcoming book, The Creativity Challenge? It’s available as a paperback!