CreativityEngaging Culture

E-Books are Great (For SOME Things)

I have an iPad and I’ve downloaded about 15 books and numerous magazine articles to the device.  I love it.  It’s convenient, easy to carry, and not bad to read.  But am I ready to dump real books?  Not hardly. If you’ve ever found an old book at a garage sale, and recognized it as one you’d read years ago – perhaps as a child, you’ll know what I mean.  There’s something about the feel, the smell, and the whole tactile experience of owning books.  I can pull many of mine from the shelf and tell you where I wrote notes or what part of the page a certain quote is on.   I remember my first tragedy.  It was called “Sabre Jet Ace” – about an Air Force pilot during the Korean War.  In the last chapter he was shot down and killed.  I’ll never forget reading it in elementary school.  I’d never read a story where the hero died.  I sat there stunned.  I had to re-read the last chapter a few times to make sure it was true.  As an adult, I spent years searching for that book, but decades later, I found it.  Just holding it my hand brings back that empty feeling I had as a kid reading the story.

Will E-Books do that?  I don’t know, but I doubt the experience will be the same.  So when it comes to serious books, I’m sticking with paper.

As Dan Newman wrote in the Wall Street Journal recently:

I see e-books as a companion format that will always share space with printed volumes. Perhaps one day, I’ll even travel with a Kindle.  Until then, I’m content with my hefty volume of “Don Quixote,” my tattered grade-school dictionary and my wood-cut illustrated “Moby Dick.”  Maybe I’m a Luddite because I feel sorry for children who read “Goodnight Moon” on a phone. And perhaps I’m a softie for hoarding my torn copy of “Huck Finn,” a gift from my grandfather, with an inscription that still makes my eyes water.
I could tell you what it says.  But it’s best to read with the book held in your own hands.

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  1. Good post, Phil,

    For years – I’ve heard about the “paperless” future we’re all heading towards – no more books, magazines, newspapers, memos. Somehow we never get there and it’s my strong hope we never do.

    You’re right, there’s something about holding that printed piece in your hand, that completes the emotional connection. And how do you underline those memorable quotes? Sure you can do it all digitally – but it’s just not the same. Seems like technology doesn’t ever quite deliver on “either/or” – most of the time it’s “both/and.”

  2. I am with you Phil. I love holding a book – smelling the ink, cracking the spine, hearing the pages rustle as I turn each page to devour the morsels therein. It is a joy to see my children reading books that I read as a youngster….and especially that the books have passed through so many hands – the eldest is 22 and the youngest 15. Ebooks may come and ebooks may go but the printed word will live on forever!

  3. ebooks are a great tool but I will go with a regular book anyday. I like to highlight and makes notes in the pages. Thus why I never let anyone borrow my books either because I write and highlight in them all the time.

  4. No, not a Luddite, but you are looking at the tech and experience of reading through a lens that your kids (and some degree myself) dont share. That tints your viewpoint just a bit, and altogether makes for the kind of perspective that should not be forgotten.

  5. Hi Phill!
    I was on a Marc Prensky´s talk (digital native) where he asked to the auditorium:
    “Why do you like books?
    Maybe you would answer tha you prefer the books instead e-books, because you can feel it, smell it and bla bla.
    So, if you like the books because of that, buy a book with empty pages and feel it, smell it, touch it.
    Indeed what you like about the books are IDEAS.
    that is what makes thinking, what does inspire, which reminds
    IDEAS, not format.”

    Sorry for my english! Greetings from Argentina! 😀

  6. If you look at it from the book marketing and book sales standpoint alongside the way folks are consuming media coupled with 400 Barnes and Nobles closing there is no doubt ereaders and ebook devices will continue to take market share. Folks who actually finish books generallly takes upwards of 15 hours.

    All that to say, how books are delivered to consumers will continue to change as publishers deal with smaller print runs and stores taking smaller quantities.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love everything about the touch of a book, the branding of the cover and marketing the heck out of it. But if you look at Blockbuster or compare digital books to the music industry things are going to continue to slide for sure!

  7. I can just picture the “used e-book store” in the future. You’ll have to buy a special scratch-and-sniff card on the way in just to have the joy of that slightly musty smell of old paper, combined with the slight smokiness of a wood stove in the corner of a shop on a back road in New Hampshire. Oh, and don’t forget the sound of a softly-purring overweight cat warming himself in sun’s rays streaming through a frost-encrusted window next to cardboard box full of Currier and Ives prints. Some things you just can’t replicate digitally.

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