I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about e-books and how they will change the way the world (or more immediately, America) reads and discusses books, and I realized something about myself.

I hate the idea of e-books.

I can’t say that I hate e-books, because I’ve never actually used one, but the concept is so repugnant to me that I don’t really care to try. I’m not a luddite by any stretch of the imagination. I read several dozen blogs on a weekly basis, I twitter, I’ve got an active Facebook account, and I send the occasional text message (I don’t like to, but not because I’m not a fan of the technology; I feel that whatever needs to be said can actually be said, not reduced to a code of 10 characters that I have to decipher while waiting at a stoplight). I have an iPod. I don’t have an iPhone, but only because I like my current cellular provider, which is not AT&T, and I don’t want to unlock one since I break everything eventually and the iPhone would be no exception (I find that my life is no poorer for not having one). I really want a GPS system for the car. I get lost a lot.

But I hate the idea of e-books.

I remember very clearly my first experience of reading a book. Sure, I read picture books with my parents and the occasional big board book, but when I was in kindergarten I really learned to read and took home these battered, taped-together books with lots of words and fewer and fewer pictures. I was so proud of those. I probably felt the same when I read my first book without pictures (this memory is not so vivid). I remember how library books smelled and how excited I was for the Scholastic book fair (okay, so half of it was for crazy neon pencil erasers, but it was exciting).

E-books give me none of these feelings.

I am also a big proponent of book preservation. I think that somewhere along the line, with the ability to mass-produce quantities of cheap printed material, we’ve forgotten how exquisite a book can be. I have some hand-bound books from the 17th century that are still in pretty decent condition, while a lot of my modern paperbacks are crumbling. I wonder what will happen to the libraries full of rare books when e-books become the standard. Will books become an expensive luxury item again? Will people actually start to put time and effort into building them? Can I expect to pay a month’s salary for a book with gilded covers and vellum pages, hand-printed on a press in Europe? Or will books just stop being made, like Polaroid film?

I don’t really want to carry an electronic tablet to read my books on. I want to stuff a book in my bag and look at the potato chip stains I made the last time I read it and remember that, because the book has character in a way an electronic device can never have (and for those of you who say, “but… sustainability!” I respond that used books are just as good and readable as new ones, and you’ll never really run out of things to read).

I also don’t want to have to refer to a thing with a battery in it when I’m miles away from civilization and want something to pass the time. Books never run out of power.

[Housekeeping note: if your comments never appear, shoot me an email; some of them are getting stuck in spam, and have been deleted unbeknownst to me]

About HappyGoth

By day, I'm a graphic designer. By night, I'm a knitter. I'm doing my part to keep Hotlanta stylish. I imagine that if you don't already understand the title of the blog, you're probably confused and perhaps slightly annoyed, but never fear - I do have a reason (and it's a good one). Having gone to hear Stephanie Pearl McPhee, and then having been inspired to blog about knitting, I found myself wondering what to call the blog. I recalled a conversation I had with Mouse and the Chicken Goddess about why it is a Bad Idea to anger knitters - this conversation was following SPM, aka the Yarn Harlot telling the assembled throng about Those Who Do Not Understand Knitting and Therefore Belittle It Much to the Chagrin of Others, or TWDNUKTBMCO, which is not the acronym she used but is the one I'm using because I forgot hers - that is, we are numerous and we all have very pointy sticks, easily transforming into an angry mob. Therefore, knitters = angry mob.
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7 Responses to E-books

  1. Elaine says:

    I love my eReader AND I love books. I read both. I love that I can download a book online…instant gratification! I also love going to book stores and buying several books at once. I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. If you love books, you can love both!!

  2. Janice in GA says:

    A post from the other side!
    I bought my first PDA about 2 weeks after I found out you could read books on them.

    I love e-books. I prefer them to paper books. I love the way I can change the font (some programs let me change the font type, font size, AND line spacing) on the fly. Now, on days when my eyes are tired, I just make the print bigger. And I can search within a book easily. I don’t have to remember if that neat phrase I read was in chapter 2 or chapter 3. And if I want to save that neat phrase, I highlight it and copy, and then paste it into a memo.

    I love how I can set them to auto-scroll so I can read while I knit or eat or spin.

    I love that if I wake up at night and can’t sleep, I can open up an e-book and not bother my husband by turning on the light.

    Yeah, e-books are not without problems. DRM on them SUCKS. E-ink books (e.g., the Kindle) can’t have a backlight, so no reading in bed with the light off. Not everything is available in ebook format, or isn’t available at a reasonable price. For example, it seems ridiculous to me to pay hardback price for an e-book.

    I have no beef with folks who prefer p-books. Og knows I’ve bought/owned enough in my day. But these days I’m an e-book gal, lovin’ the technology.

    I love that I don’t have to keep buying bookshelves to hold all my books, or constantly recycle them through the used bookstore system.

  3. deirdre says:

    The idea of e-books makes me cringe.

    I too spent hours in the library and still love to be in libraries. There is nothing in the electronic media that can replace going to the section where your book is waiting and being able to look up and down the shelves and let something new, but related, catch your eye.

    You are not alone.

  4. Darren says:

    And yet, when a generation does grow up without the smell of books or the feel of that first book in their hands, there will nothing analog to cling to – for good or ill. I like ebooks, but I still read probably one to every three paper books.

  5. Mouse says:

    I haven’t ever read an actual e-book (just a few very long pdf formated things) but I am with you on preferring paper. I don’t even like audio-books because I prefer reading myself and making up my own voices for the characters in my head.

    I love used books.. I think there should be MORE libraries and more ways to get books to your front door! I have heard that there is a service for books similar to Netflix but I haven’t had the money in my budget to check it out yet.. our libraries don’t seem to have things I want.

    • HappyGoth says:

      I can’t believe I went so long without using interlibrary loan; it’s a total wonder (and easy – worldcat.com is a great way to look, and then you can check with the library to find out how to request the book you need)

  6. Tyler says:

    Real books aren’t going away any time soon. TV didn’t kill radio and the Internet didn’t kill TV. (though they all may have tried). Different mediums are good for different things.

    I don’t think it would’ve mattered if I had read my first novel off of an e-book or off of an Egyptian scroll. The experience of reading was what I value the most from those memories.

    As for batteries… I think a solar powered e-book reader could work!

    They probably wont change the way America reads because in the USA, most people don’t read another book after high school.

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