Monday, March 22, 2010

In which I explain my undying love of paper books

I critiqued the opening to a friend's novel the other day, and during a little back-and-forth via email, she referenced the first two paragraphs of Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner. That's not right, I thought, her book starts out much more global--I'm going to look that up. So I head over to my trusty bookshelves to prove her wrong*:


Only it wasn't there. Oh, that's right. I read Best Friends Forever on my Kindle. I powered her up and flipped through my 3 pages of book choices and until found the title.

That got me thinking. What's my plan, here? Am I going to have my whole library stored in a little device?

Sure, e-readers are convenient. My library branch smells like old shoes and body odor, so I'm disinclined to borrow books. And the Kindle is especially great for traveling. No lugging suitcases that weigh like they are filled with rocks. I can zap a couple of books for the trip and I'm good to go. The screen reads nicely, and I love the built-in dictionary, especially for reading The Road. (What the hell is a "travois?" Click. Oh.)

But for regular use, for me, it's just too ephemeral. How long do I plan to keep those books there? Forever? I have books on my shelf I bought in high school. It's been a while since I read Animal Farm, but in case I feel the need, there it is. My old Norton Anthology of Poetry sits on my shelf, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" still highlighted in pink (always pink!)

And what's my other choice--to have the Kindle books vanish into the ether?

I dunno. I'm just not loving it as much as I thought. What do you think? Do you have an e-reader? Do you want one?


*She was right.

24 comments:

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Just looking at your bookcases feels like home.

Indigo said...

I can't imagine never having piles of books stacked all over the house. There is something comforting in the very act of holding a book in your hands and turning the pages. For me it's comparative to studying the small delicate twists and turns in a painting. A visual ambrosia.

Shouldn't we enjoy a good book like a fine wine or a masterpiece sitting in a museum? Maybe this is a stretch...but I like my books, each and every single one of them.(Hugs)Indigo

Brian said...

Good post, Wendy. As I've said before, when it comes to the Kindle, I get it. I understand the attraction. But I still don't want one.

It's the same mentality I bring to my iPod: sure, it holds my entire music library, but I STILL buy the CDs to burn to it (rather than download the album off iTunes). I just happen to like the CD with its liner notes and case and cover art and everything else. And since I can't "burn" a book to a Kindle, I'd rather just have the book, and get that tactile sensation of holding it in my hands, turning non-virtual pages, and getting the great pulpy smell.

(Now, if they ever make a technology that allows me to burn a hardcopy of a book to Kindle, I'm totally there! That would allow me to have all my books on a Kindle while STILL cluttering up my office with the real thing! Best of both worlds.)

Emeila said...

Just recently I gave many books away at a used book store. However, I love books and could stay in a bookstore for hours.

Robin said...

I don't have one. I'm afraid I'm really attached to the "real thing." However, space is an issue for me right now, so I might have to rethink that.... Life seems to be full of compromises, doesn't it?

In this lifetime said...

First time I've ever heard of an e-reader. Sounds like a smart invention but there is something about holding the book in my hands and turning countless pages that keep me going back to the books. At least people like you have an appreciation for good pieces of literature, Oh and by the way, Animal Farm, my favorite!

Charmaine Clancy said...

I want I want I want an e-reader. I already go digital with Kindle for PC. I've always dreamed of adding a library to our house but now I crave going completely digital. We had a yard sale on the weekend and I got rid of crates and crates of books (there are still crates and crates left). I was committed to my digital book dream.
But then I saw this bookstore on a blog this week and it totally made me nostalgic for paper books:
http://www.publishersweekly.com/blog/ShelfTalker_A_Children_s_Bookseller_s_Blog/28758-A_Photo_Tour_of_the_Montague_Bookmill.php

Jennifer Walkup said...

I totally agree. No ereader here and I don't want one. And I totally covet your bookshelves!:)

Fairway Fiction said...

I'm a huge fan of having books around the house - lots and lots of books. I never thought I'd ever hear myself say this, but I'm seriously contemplating a kindle. Hell must be freezing over.

Captain and Crew said...

I love books too!

But, I am beginning to think of my book case like my closet. Nina Garcia says, "Edit, Edit, Edit." And moving 4 times in the past 12 years helps! If I loved it, then I keep it (ie. The Namesake, Frankenstein, Life of Pi). If I don't remember it or don't want to remember it, then I donate it to Goodwill (Love in the Time of Cholera, Bastard Out of Carolina, I,Claudius). If I think the book makes me look cooler to visitors who come by and see my bookshelf, then I definitely keep it (Atlas Shrugged, Norton Anthology of Anything, Shakespeare and Dante)!

blueeyedadri said...

I am also looking to buy an e-reader, I travel and am a constant taxi for all things children I think that my books won't get so beat up if I don't drag them everywhere with me.
I envision having my library full of classics, must haves on paper (can't imagine reading Shakespeare in digital!) and use my Kindle for new books.

Purple Cow said...

I like the whole reading ritual...choosing the book at the store...discussing it with the book store owner...smelling it...underlining it...taking it to bed...turning the page...

As for Kindle...I haven't tried it so who knows?

Allie said...

My husband has a Nook and LOVES it! But he reads technical books on it - they get outdated anyway, and it's nice to not have those huge bricks of paper in our house. I read books on the Kindle app on my iPhone sometimes - I love having a book with me wherever I go. I tend to pick the books I buy for that different. If I'd buy it in mass market, I'll buy it as an ebook. But I do love a good hardcover, and I love having them on my shelves.

Cynthia Reese said...

See, now this is exactly the problem I am having with audio books and my iPod.

I have this book on my iPod that I've finished "reading," and I would feel guilty deleting it because it was a GOOD book. But at the same time, digital storage is not infinite.

So I know that if I got the new iPad that I'm lusting for, I'd run into the self-same problem.

Whereas now, with actual physical books, I know I don't acquire them unless I LOVE them. Usually I do a test run at the library first, and then if it's a keeper, I buy the book.

Brent Winter said...

I think each format has its strengths and advantages. There's no beating an e-book for convenience, not just of reading and portability but also of procurement: you can buy and obtain the book almost instantaneously. But beautiful paper books can enrich your life aesthetically like nothing else can; I'm thinking of the hardcover edition of A.S. Byatt's Little Black Book of Stories, which is just a pleasure to read, or the art book that was published to accompany the exhibit of Georgia O'Keefe's abstract art at the Whitney last year. So I'm going to get an iPad and do a fair amount of reading on it, but I'll still be willing to kill some trees for visual art or poetry or beautiful design on rich paper.

insidethewritersstudio said...

I love books too much to buy a Kindle.

I understand other people's love for the Kindle (and other e-readers), though. I don't knock the Kindle. I just do not prefer to own the Kindle.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

i want one but i think i would buy the hardcover - if i loved it. Id want a paper one on my shelf.

the EyeZuh said...

i want an e-reader just out of convenience because i have the tendency to pick up more than one book at a time... so its nice to be able to switch up while i'm on the go or when im out of town or sumthing... BUT don't get me wrong... i'd love to have a physical copy of every book i ever read (well the good ones anyways lolz).

Medeia Sharif said...

I read my first ebook on an iPod Touch last week. At first I thought the experience would be different, but it's not. I'm now pondering my books which take up so much space, and some smell like mold. In a few years I'd like to go completely digital with my library. I'm a minimalist and a techie, and this will work for me.

WendyCinNYC said...

Sorry I've been AWOL, everyone. I've been on vacation and I did NOT take my laptop. Hooray!

Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts!

Melanie Avila said...

I just found a bunch of my high school & college books today. I can't imagine actually looking at and enjoying them if they were digital, but I think I would like a Kindle.

Janet Flanigan said...

It looks like your readers are mostly of a like mind - we enjoy the tactile feel of the page and revisting our old friends in hardback. PLUS - I read so many books - probably 5 - 7 every 2 weeks plus 2 - 3 on CD that I have to go to the library plus purchase them. I don't think I can afford to purchase them all - even on a kindle!

Lance said...

An electronic book,no way. There's nothin' like a book in hand.One in the bedroom, one on the kitchen table,and, especially one in the lew. Laptops are much to bulky in the lew, the most quite spot in the house and you can sit there and read till you legs fall asleep. :)

Randy Johnson said...

I love to read the old yellowed pages of early editions. Pages softened by time that turn easily. The slightly blunted corners of well loved hard bound covers. Relaxed spines that hint at favorite chapters. Something to loan. Something to borrow. Something to take me back through the years.

Maybe I could read contemporary works on a Kindle, but never the old stuff. It just shouldn’t be allowed.