Wednesday, March 23, 2011

E-Books, Schmee-Books

I’ve seen many headlines recently, like this one at Huffington Post, declaring that e-books are the wave of the future. Here’s another one about e-books apps specifically for parents and children.
I cringe every time I see one of these articles. I can’t help it! I love books. Real, soft or hard back, filled with pages and with mass and weight and a spine that may or may not be warped in honor of a recent reader’s favorite chapters or scenes.
I love the familiarity of finding a dog-eared page in one of my favorite books – realizing that I’ve tread this path before, that I’ve read these words – perhaps while sipping a cup of Earl Grey or munching a sleeve of Thin Mints.
I still own some of my lit class books from college and I know, without even having to open them up, that they are filled with my sophomoric, philosophical thoughts about poetry, the Romantics, and the symbolism and meaning of Ezra Pound scrawled in the margins. Like little pieces of myself at a younger age…notes and highlighted passages leave a historic trail. My own personal path, worn like the wagon train ruts that still exist in Kansas, through a body of literature that in some way made me into the reader and writer I am today.
Could I have this history if I had only used e-books back in the day? Do typed notes in some app really result in the same sort of feeling? The same…record of history?
Will my kids have the same sort of feeling about actual books as they grow and are educated? Today, their rooms hold collections of books right now, but I suppose the future holds a different type of library for them. Odds are strong, I realize, that as adults they will not have a shelf of old college texts (or even favorite books!) taking up space in their homes. Instead, they’ll have files saved to a thumb drive somewhere…Or whatever media will serve to save electronic files in the future.
An e-reader would definitely prevent further clutter in my house. Right now, every room has stacks or shelves (or both) of books, teetering here, leaning there, threatening to fall over if someone nudges them just the right way. My bookshelf is stacked two volumes deep in places, so I can’t even see the books in the back row anymore.
But what fun to rediscover them! With a layer of dust coating the top edge and the memory of the first read clinging to the uneven page edges.
Some day, I’ll cave and end up buying an e-reader. Not sure which kind yet. Or even when. And once I give in, I’ll probably go whole hog and end up with just as big of an electronic book library as I have a “real” library in my house.
Less to dust. Less to shift from one pile to another. But will it be worth it?
Do you have an e-reader? Do you like it? What are the positives and negatives to using one?


  1. Great post, Karen! I do not have an e-reader yet, because I share the same feelings about books that you do. To me, there is nothing more wonderful than feeling a book in my hand, thumbing through the pages of a well-worn paperback that I know and love to see what notes I might have scribbled in the margins. So I don't know if I'll ever feel the same way about an e-reader as I do a real book, but just like you I imagine that someday I'll cave. But it won't be the same. :(

  2. Yup, totally agree. I'm just as resistant to the idea of the e-reader... I'll probably cave in some day - but I'll hold out as long as I can! Books, like old friends, are too important to me! :)