Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I Book, You Book,...E Book?

"To me, a book is a book, an electronic device is not, and love of books was the reason I started writing. I don't have a word processor, e-mail, any of that stuff. I write in longhand mostly, then put it on my typewriter as I go along. I don't have any interest in any of that electronic stuff, but I'm going on 85, and won't have to worry about it too much longer."

--Elmore Leonard, quoted on his website.

There has been a lot of talk about e-books in recent years. Those who are on the bandwagon talk excitedly about digital conversion and having any book you might want at the press of a button. Naysayers turn up their noses at the technology and worry that this may be the last nail in the coffin for the publishing industry. And booksellers? Well most of us try to adapt as much as possible and keep a watchful eye.

Amazon recently reported that they sold three times as many e-books for the Kindle in the first half of this year as they did last year. Then again, independent booksellers are reporting that their sales are up 1%, which is in line with other retail sales for the year. It seems that while e-books are exploding there are still some people steadfastly holding on to their paperbacks.

E-books seem like a perfect invention for those that spend a lot of time travelling. When I imagine the ideal e-book consumer I think of someone like George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air, who is constantly on the move. For me the main appeal is the lack of weight and space that a Kindle would take up in a bag when compared to a stack of traditional books.

I’m a technophile. I love my laptop, iPod, email, and cellular phone (when it works). I spend a lot of time commuting, and hauling books with me to and fro. On the surface I seem to be a great candidate for such a gizmo. And yet, when asked if I wanted such a thing I can feel my lip curl in distaste. For me reading a book is more than ingesting content. It’s the feel of the pages in my hands. The smell of the paper. The finality when I turn that last page and close the cover. It’s a rich tactile experience. It’s the reason I printed all my online reading in college. Reading from a screen just isn’t the same. At least not for me.

I have friends on both sides of the fence. Friends who love their e-books intensely and friends who would sooner die than read Jane Austin on a screen. So what do you think? What’s your opinion? Are e-books the future, or will there always be a place for print?



  1. I'm finding room for both in my life. There are certain activities where I can multitask but the easy of "page turning" and ability to adjust font size work best with the ebook format - reading while on the treadmill at the gym and reading while knitting simple projects. When reading for readings sake though I prefer the printed page. I tend to go for print with titles I imagine I'll reread in the future and hang onto long term. I choose ebooks for those I figure I'd read and trade in.

  2. I think that sounds like a practical and elegant way of getting in maximum reading. Finding a place for for both ebooks and paper books is likely the ideal. You make a great point about paperbacks and treadmills failing to mix well - there are just some circumstances where books are cumbersome. I like that you've found balance. It sort of reminds me of my relationship with Netflix: I didn't stop buying my favorite movies, but thanks to easy rental I now get to watch more.