Saturday, November 5, 2011

Some People Come With Baggage. I Come With Books.

I have been to places and times that I will never visit. I have met cultures that I will never meet in person, but am now aware of.  Worlds, thoughts, stories and discoveries contained between covers, are free to roam in my imagination.

I look at the words that surround me and the memories attached to every book in my possession and remember. I read that one when I was a teen; philosophy hidden in a cheap pink paperback. This one was carelessly dropped in the sand. "Notes from the underground" on a beach. What would Dostoyevsky say if he knew that his work is associated with scent memories of surfboard and ocean? My earliest copy of Tolkien reminds me of reading past my bedtime.

My library, carefully packed up with care across distances, some great, some small. There is a sense of accomplishment when I look upon the visual display of books organized by subject and author. I gave up counting them a long time ago. Books given to me as gifts, inscribed by my friends, mentors and relatives. I cannot look at them without remembering the person who gave them to me, where I read them or what stage of life, opinion and interests I was in.

Paper books.

My reading experience is indelibly linked to cover art, edition, shape, size and weight of the books that line my shelves and occupy side tables.  Some are old and instantly transport me to small, cramped little bookstores, where I found some of my most valued treasures. Others have been sold, donated, recycled through many different hands, passed on, gifted, lent, borrowed, valued. Even when discarded, they can be altered or left to the elements to biodegrade.

E-books, while convenient and accessible will never replace any of that. They require an energy source to read, sometimes irritate with their flash to black when turning a page and contain components of disposable technology that are toxic to the environment.

Paper books satisfy all senses; the smell of new paper and ink, the sound of a turning page and simply holding a book turn reading into a sensual experience. I recall where I saw an important passage or quote. I can read with a pen, adding my own thoughts to the margins. The e-book, however, is silent; the sound of a turning page is imaginary or artificial. I cannot feel the embossed lettering of a cover, I cannot tell by weight alone how much reading enjoyment is left.

Future generations of e-books will likely be more interactive and therefore distracting. I have already viewed some animated children's books. I want a book, not a smart phone.

I am certain that paper books will continue to be published for a long time. It is unlikely that the ancient art and technology of using ink on parchment or paper will become obsolete within the next few decades.

Given a choice, there shall only be paper books in my domain (and no wire hangers). As to the e-book that someone gave me? It's so thin that I cannot find it. It probably lies buried beneath a pile of books.


  1. I love books, and cover art the most. But I find that today's art direction on most fiction books is very dull and abstract now. For that reason, my transition over to eBook formats has been more rapid than others. Also, as much as I love the smell and feel of a new book, the convenience and instant gratification of simply ordering the book I want and getting it in my hands right there and now trumps it all.

    I will never give up on physical books completely. But eReaders are too terribly convenient for me to ignore. My formula these days is to buy the books by my favorite authors, and which I've been looking forward to the most, in hardcover. But for all other books--including paperbacks, classics, and friend recommendations--I purchase these on my iPad.

    I read my iPad to and from work on the subway, during my lunch break, and whenever I'm waiting at the doc's office or similar. The hardcovers I leave at home at my bedside for reading at night or on weekends. It's a system that works very well for me, and I get the best of both worlds. :)

  2. I'm on the fence when it comes to e-books. As David said, there is the convenience factor. However, I agree that there's just something about the smell & feel of a paper book that technology just can't replicate.

  3. Ah, Antares how I agree. Books have asense of purose beyond e-books. Would you really select a book on impuls the same way as a download from a list. To feel the heft, sense the work, carry the weight to the counter in anticipation - these are things to treasure. Like you, particular books, like songs, are stakes across my past with meaning beyond their worth. Th sense of past you get from and old book - maybe viewed as an old friend, or maybe a book that's had many lives in the hands of unseen others across the years - that's something an e-book will never deliver.

    I grump - or philosophise about it above.

    This post has a real sense of deja vu for me.

    Loved it, simply loved it.

  4. I know - I need to use spellcheck....

    Ah bugger!!!

  5. *clap*
    Books are always within reach my reach no matter where I am. I couldn't live any other way.

  6. David, I've noticed the homogenization of art covers too. Digital art is faster and cheaper than paying an artist to pay a cover.

    For convenience alone, e-readers are obviously better. If there are books that I want to keep and know I will re-read I buy them in paper.

    We'll see how future e-readers hold up.

    @Vinny, personal preference really, but some of my books are highlighted, lined, marked. Can't do that with an e-book.

    @Alistair, exactly! I don't want to spend any more time looking at a screen than I have to.
    I cannot connect to a cold piece of plastic as I do to a physical paper book.

    We need to keep the paper publishing industry going, so that we always have a choice.

    @dbs, I know, they are everywhere and seem to multiply on their own. (Might have something to do with me bringing them home).
    Paper books: *clap*

  7. I, too, prefer the old dinosaurs. Give me something I can take to the tub, the pool, the beach. Something that can take the abuse I give when it's in a steamy room for a chapter at a time, or gets splashed by the kids doing cannonballs, or gets covered by sand. Something to keep me entertained when the power is out for days on end. Give me real pages that I can feel and smell and hear as I turn them.

  8. I love both. My Sony e-reader is fantastic and this is what I read most of my novels on. (as I have access to hundreds upon hundreds of them.) I do love a paper book if I am collecting a series and will read and read them again. (My poor beaten David Eddings books can attest to that). I also love to buy the odd non-fiction book in the form of an ecology or David Attenborough, or recipe book. It's a bit hard to look at (and not buy) paper books at the moment, with no where to put them. One day I will have my library...

  9. I am so with you on this one (pardon the cliche). There's something about the tactile experience of reading a paper book (or pterotactile if reading a book about dinosaurs. Please excuse the lame pun) that things like Kindle will never replace, smarmy television spots notwithstanding.
    I think Gutenberg would be proud.
    If he wasn't dead.

  10. Funny you mention Gutenberg Al.. there is a site that has FREE e-books to download called "Project Gutenberg"

    (of course, they are all free from copyright.)

  11. One loves books of all kinds and sorts. My philosophy in this area has always been more is better. Of course that is an excellent idea for the tangible books except at moving time!

  12. @poetryoftheday, me too.
    Thanks for stopping by.

    @Gaelic wife, they are not extinct yet.
    I agree, I doubt any electronic device will last centuries compared to mostly indestructible books.

    @Sprite,good approach, non-fiction and re-readables must be in book form.
    One day you will.:)
    The image is copyright-free. Liked it too.

    @Al, pterotactile? I like it.
    It's nice to see teens in bookstores, browsing.

    @Sprite, I'm sure publishers don't like that one.

    @Laoch, yes, more is more when it comes to books. Moving time is generally dreadful.

  13. Nothing beats a real book, but there are things I love about my Kindle as well. It's nice to have my Kindle at the pool and be able to buy a book while I'm sitting there. And, living overseas, I don't always have access to a library or even a good book store. While I don't think anything electronic will ever replace the love I have for the look, the smell, just holding a real book, I'm spoiled by convenience.

  14. They are all books that have been written before 1955 that don't have their copyrights on them any more.. like all the classics. It's actually a good site to get the classics that you would never find in a book store, and I've also come upon some I never knew existed. :)

  15. I have an addiction to reading which might possible be considered therapy and/or medication worthy. I will read shampoo bottles, food wrappers, anything I can get my hands on if I don't have a book with me. Every room in my house is filled with books.

    I read 5 to 7 books, per week. I also write books to entertain myself if I run through my 7 book limit before the week is out. (I don't write as fast as I read AND it's basically free, so it's kind of my way of dealing with the global economy.

    I love books in all forms. The instant gratification of an E book and the lack of space they take up in my tiny house, the feel and smell of a hard cover book, the way I can curl the covers back on a dearly loved paperback, even the stains and dog ears on the pages of used books.

    When I write, I prefer a great pen and quality paper rather than a computer. I realize I have to type the story up eventually anyway but I just consider that the opportunity to proof read and edit.

    So, after all that blabbering, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I like both. I just wanted to give you something extra to're welcome.

  16. @ Nari, I am the same way! I hate to just sit. I think that's part of my obsession with the internet as well. Always something new to read, be it a blog, some news, social networking. I don't write my own books, but always think I will someday. I also prefer writing rather than typing.

  17. @Meg, I agree with the convenience. Problem is small publishers can't compete with e-books and will go under, which will give consumers less choice in what they will get to read.

    @Sprite, I'll check it out.

    @Dear Nari,
    thank you for submitting your article on our blog. Antares Publishing Co. completely agrees with your assessment on books and the contemplative art of longhand writing.



    @Meg, I have actually returned to longhand writing, turned out to be more enjoyable and we get to buy journals and leather covers.

  18. Love my leather-bound journals and even a cheap paperback book beats an ebook. I cannot see myself ever giving up books, but if they don't publish them, I may have little choice.

  19. @alwaysinthebackrow, thank you for visiting.
    I feel the same. The more consumers keep buying paper books, the longer we'll keep them going.

  20. Dear Antares Publishing Co,

    Your Welcome.



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