Monday, December 6, 2010

E-Books vs. the Real Thing

Last week, Nathan Bransford asked a question on his blog:  Will you ever buy mostly e-books?  And for the first time in the four years since he first asked this question, the yeas outnumber the nays, 32% to 30%.  I was not surprised since e-readers are the gift of the season this year and many of my friends and family now use them, but when I put the questions to myself, a woman who loves electronic gadgets of all sorts, I answered with a resounding NO!

There are several reasons why, most of them having to do with the nostalgia of holding a book in my hand.  There is something about the way a real book feels that is sensual in so many ways.  It’s almost like holding and caressing a lover in its sensuality.  First, I love the smell of the ink and the paper on a new book, especially a hardback.  I love to run my fingers over the pages from front to back and let the scent of the fanned air caress my face and fill my nostrils.  It smells almost as good as freshly baked break or newly ground coffee. 

And then there’s the feel of the book, its heft and breadth, the substantial bulk, that makes me happy.  And I love a really long, big, fat book because that means I get to be absorbed in a story and the lives of its characters for a very long time. I can fall in love with them and hug them as I pull the thick volume close to my chest before I put it down for the night.  I also love the way it feels when I rest an open book above my upper lip and below my nose as I gaze over the top edge at the TV or a loved one when they interrupt my reading.

When I read a real book, I place my thumbs along the open pages and slip the middle finger of my right hand into the as yet unread pages on the right, gauging how many pages I have left, how much more time I have remaining with my new love.  And when something I’ve just read confuses me, I love to fan back through those pages I’ve already read to find the previously read passage that will straighten me out.  When I do, I often note the few places where the corner of a page became dog-eared or where I spilled some food or drink, creating a small speck on the once clean paper, because I never, and I mean never, sit at the table and eat without a book opened in front of me.

My favorite passages often sit open at attention because I’ve run my hand over the binding so many times.  And when the book falls off the table or chair where I’m sitting, it automatically opens to that exact passage and I picture that scene in my mind all over again.  I even love the way I can see the texture of the paper beneath the contrasting ink.  And I love the cover art, which, if I’ve left the dust jacket on, I will see every single time I pick up my book, noting the placement of the bookmark and my progress through another magnificent story.  I love the way the title and author’s name are raised, pressed from below on the jacket so I can feel it every time I hold it in my hand.

Reading a book is so much more than just the story within.  That’s why publishers put so much time, money and effort into it.  I agree that e-readers are convenient, allowing you to carry every book you’ve ever known and purchased no matter where you’re going.  But I’ve spent a lot of money designing and building floor to ceiling library shelves to hold my most cherished collection:  my books.  They sit like pieces of fine art, deliberately displayed (without their dust jackets) and artfully arranged by author, size, color and topic.  They’re my trophies and I am very proud of them.  I feel like I have a piece of the author residing with me.  I often run my fingers over the spines of my growing library and smile as I remember each story, where I lived, or what I was doing when I read it for the first time.  They are like memories of my own life and I want to be constantly reminded of them every time I stand before the tall shelves.  And I can loan them to my friends, too.    

You just don’t have any of that with an e-reader and an e-book. 

1 comment:

Natalie Sharpston said...

Hi Nancy,
I read your post on e-books vs. the real thing few months back (I should have commented then!), and just wanted you to know I agree with you!

I too wrote about this topic about a month ago... However, I know I need to be open to the wonders of the e-reader - but just not yet.

Here's my post:

Natalie : )