Books with Batteries

The new and the old

Readers –

This one’s for you.

Kindles, Nooks, online books, reading on iPods and Pads and such, what do you make of it all?

There’s a Podcast I listen to with a certain degree of regularity; it’s called Writing Excuses. It discusses, as you can probably surmise, writing, and all of the ins and outs of it. The particular episode I listened to today discussed the future of publishing. The panel opined that the publishing industry’s future would be almost entirely digital.
I’m not sure if I listened to the episode twice to ensure I heard them correctly or because I wanted to see if there was anything I had missed. Maybe it was a bit of both. Anyhow, since then my curiosity’s been sufficiently piqued and I’m now wondering how those around me prefer to read.
History takes digital ‘leisure’ reading back to somewhere around the ‘70s, but I wouldn’t say it blew up until Amazon came out with the Kindle in 2007. Barnes & Noble came out with the Nook shortly after and since then it’s been a predictable battle to see who’s palm will cover the baseball bat. As an observer watching the technological race for the blue ribbon in this field, it’s been madness. It’s all moving so quickly. I mean, I’m not the worlds most avid reader, but I never really saw a point for any other medium on which to read. That is to say, I never thought there was anything wrong with the regular old book. I mean, the average book that one sees in any bookstore takes up little space on one’s person and can most often be stuffed in a pocket or a bag, making it reasonably portable. You start with page one and carry it around until you get to the end. That’s it.
With electronic readers (e-readers), isn’t it just a technological replica of the same idea? I mean, it takes up a little space, you start at page one and take it with you until you get to the end <<shrugs>>. Where’s the alluring advantage there?
Okay, okay, I can all but hear the techy e-reader fans from the other side of this screen yelling at me.

Raucous Screen Crowd: “It can hold more! It’s cheaper! I has wireless Internet! It’s worth more if you steal it!”

I’ll disregard that last one. It was just a few weeks ago when I was speaking to a friend of mine who was going to be taking a long trip the following day. I asked her (for the sake of anonymity, let’s call her ‘Julie’) if she was prepared for her trip (i.e. did she have enough reading material, movies, games… you know? Distractions). She said that she had her Kindle which had (and I paraphrase) something like 120 books on it. Okay, in response to your first exclamation, you’re clearly correct. I wouldn’t ever be able to take 120 books on my person on a plane ride…comfortably. However, why in tarnation do you need to have 120 books right then and there?

Answer from the raucous crowd: You don’t need it then and there necessarily, but you don’t have to buy it, but you have it if, perchance, you somehow need or want it.
I think that’s a fantastic argument. I’ve never really thought of it like that. I mean I could argue all day that people won’t need that many books, but I’m not everyone and everyone’s not me. Let’s face it, people want to have things sometimes, just to feel happy and comfortable that they have them. These people know that if, for whatever reason (say, Alex Trebek calls up and asks them who the first character mentioned in Act I, Scene II of Shakespeare’s Othello is), they have it and they can get to it.

But, I don’t need all 120 titles with me at all times, nor do I mind spending a few extra dollars to have the book itself. It may just be me, but you really can’t beat the book.

There’s something about a book that appeals to the senses. It’s the scent, the feel of the cover’s texture and the subtle breath of the pages as your thumb fans across them. It’s hearing the page as it turns from the unread to the read and the sound of the entire unit as it closes on the wedged bookmark. It’s all there – the tactile, the scent, the visual, and the audible…all but the taste…and if done right, it can be almost as good as the real thing. Its the sensuousness that gives me pleasure.

I’m not writing this to vilify e-readers. On the contrary, I can see why, for some people, it may be the better choice. If you’re a traveller and you have to switch between different books, newspapers, magazines, professional journals and anything else, heck yeah; e-reader is the way to go. But, if you just read one thing at a time, want to enjoy just the experience of reading, then why not go out to a local bookstore and let your mind off the leash for a bit?
With regard to reading, the future in my mind is as it has been, the real deal – a book. I’m not saying I’ll never use an e-reader (I may even read a whole book on one), but nothing gives you the experience of it all like holding the book in your hands, finding your reading nook with a snack and a drink, and letting the pages do the rest.


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