In Christi Craig’s recent post she spoke of Sherman Alexie’s misgivings about electronic books and mentioned her college library with a spiral staircase descending through levels of old books. That was my inspiration for this post.
I don’t own a Kindle, or any other electronic book reader. Yes, I think they look cool. And yes, I’m usually a sucker for the latest electronic gadgets. But I have misgivings about digital books. Call me a dinosaur, if you must.
I do understand why Kindle-like readers are popular with agents and editors who have to read numerous partials and fulls, usually transporting them from office to home. I can see their use for travelers who are able to take several books with them on such a thin, light-weight object. And I’m sure they are a blessing for others I haven’t considered. But I fear they are the harbinger of the death of ink and paper books.
Oh, that will never happen, you say. Remember the vinyl record album? Those who grew up with CDs never knew the experience of holding an LP in their hands so they didn’t consider their demise a big deal. And now those growing up with iPods no longer see much use for CDs. Maybe the next generation won’t miss REAL books because they will never experience them.
Books are meant to be experienced with the eyes, hands, nose, mind, heart, and spirit … and yes I suppose all these come into play with a reader—except maybe the nose. An electronic/plastic smell is not what I had in mind. But books are more than just an object.
Sitting in a comfy spot with a book and your favorite drink is a ritual. Propping a book in front of your plate to read as you eat is a ritual. Tucking your child in at night and sharing a favorite book is a ritual. Walking into a bookstore or library and gazing at the endless possibilities before you is a ritual. Okay, so it’s possible to replace a REAL book with a reader in the first two rituals, and—technically—in the third, but would you want to? And what about the fourth ritual?
It seems the new library will be you—the new Nook reader allows you to “loan” your book to a friend for two weeks! And I suppose today’s bookstores with coffee bars will be replaced by coffee shops with a download kiosk in the corner. I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem like a fair trade to me.