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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Another e-book Rant

I know; I'm beginning to sound obsessed. Plus, I seem to be talking out of both sides of my mouth. I've already extolled the virtues of my Kindle, and now I'm about to go off on the new color Nook from B&N. But it's not the device itself, it's what B&N so proudly claims it will do that bothers me. They associate the introduction of this new product with their ability to now provide e-versions of picture books for little kids. That really upset me.

Will this generation of kids be growing up without knowing what it's like to hold a book, turn the pages, carry it around, keep it forever? Yes, I know, I've said that I'm getting over that need myself. But I grew up with books. I've spent my entire adult life working with books. I already know the value of the book as object. It's not something I'm likely to forget. (And I still have the beautifully illustrated copy of Heidi given to me and inscribed "To Judy, Love Nini, 1947.")

To me, the book as object is far more than the words; it's typeface, design, paper, binding, top stain, ragged right, jacket design--do I need to go on? I think there's a correlation between learning to love reading and loving the thing itself. Am I right about that or am I just trying to stop the flow progress by sticking my finger in the proverbial dike?

I mean, after all, the typewriter was a pretty nifty object, too, but I never regretted the loss of my Royal electric portable, changing the ribbon, using White Out (a relatively recent innovation in itself), or making carbon copies once I got a computer.

So, does anyone else feel this potential loss as I do? I'd love to know.


  1. I read one book on my Kindle, FAITHFUL PLACE by Tana French. Usually I can not put her books down. I still have not finished it. The next two books I have purchased are hardcovers. I am not going back. My kindle is great because it delivers the NYTimes which doesn't happen in upstate NY but even the newspaper is faulty:pictures grainy, no best seller list.

    Our grand daughter received her copy of GOODNIGHT MOON when she was two months old. No one considered depriving her of the tactile and sensual experience of learning through a book.

    I don't believe people will give up books. ereaders are good for some things but not for everything. Great for travel, but curl up in bed with one? That's not happening.

  2. I now buy more books in Kindle format than in hard copy: cheaper, more portable, faster access. But I still buy in hard copy when (1) Kindle format is not available or (2) the physical qualities of the book are important to me. The best gift I got in the past year was the beautiful and lavish edition of Jung's RED BOOK published by Norton.

    The invention of movies didn't wipe out the theater. The invention of TV didn't wipe out movies. And the invention of the ebook won't wipe out print.

  3. . . . And for another perspective, consider this new study about kids and reading sponsored by Scholastic, which suggests that many kids are likely to read more books if they can access them electronically. Knowing my grandkids (aged 11 and 6) and their propensity for digital devices, I am inclined to believe these findings.

  4. I'm with Karl. Digital content may make physical content of certain kinds even more precious and treasured. Let's just get 'em reading and keep 'em reading - and if that means it's on-screen where they can buy it with a click, turn the pages with a click, and visit video clips or other supporting information/literature with clicks, so be it. I love physical books, but my allegiance is more to the ideas than to the delivery system, so to speak. And having lived for years in a small space with a book lover, his books have taken over and I have bought fewer and fewer over the years, which has likely broken my habitual thinking that I "have" to have them. And here's the ugly truth, coming from a publishing person: most books I want to read, not own. If I need to read them again, that's what libraries are for. There, I've said it. And yes, I can still remember how certain favorite books of my childhood smelled. But I don't have to smell it to value it. Having said this, I don't have a Kindle or a Nook! But I know that day is coming.