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Paper vs e.

I’ve done a bit of reading today about film vs digital. And I got to thinking about another digital vs old-style choice we’re faced with. The one regarding books.

I’ve always loved reading. And I distinctly remember the day when my Mom took me with her to visit a friend, and while the two ladies were having coffee and chatting in the kitchen I snuck into the living room and looked at the bookcase for a few moments, unable to decide which book to browse. That bookcase seemed enormous to my 7-year old self and it seemed they had thousands of books, like I had only seen in the movies. I finally decided on a tome with Christian Andersen stories, sat on the floor on my tummy and started reading.

That’s how my love of books began. With fairy tales. I had a huge book, volume 1 of a compilation of stories from around the world and I was so amazed at how Chinese stories were different from Norwegian ones… I didn’t know a lot about the world back then, obviously. Then when I was 10 or so, I and read a lot by Alexandre Dumas. I was holding my breath while going through The Three Musketeers, much to my Mom’s exasperation as I was always late for dinner during this time.

I don’t think I could become a Kindle enthusiast because I am too much in love with all that books (as I’ve always known them) represent. An open book left on the nightstand is an invitation to let myself carried away, it’s all the skipped meals and moments of staring at the clock in amazement that the hours flew by so quickly, it’s discovering feelings I didn’t even know I had. I can’t imagine ever being drawn this way towards flipping virtual pages on a Kindle. The Kindle has no smell… and me? I love the smell of books. Those new, perfect, crisp pages that smell like ink or the yellow ones from old books that smell like dust and time gone by. I love browsing through the shelves upon shelves of volumes in bookstores, discovering 1970s editions of The Catcher in the Rye, or you know, adorable Dr Seuss books, I am equally thrilled about either of them. Plus, has it ever happened to you to find notes or scribblings on the pages of library books? A few years ago I borrowed The Bell Jar from the University library and inside I found a post-it which said “I still love you, M”. I tell you, my heart just melted in a big puddle right there.

So no, I don’t think I’ll turn into an e-book lover. Unless they come up with a new “real book smell for e-books” iPad app which would also include the dog-eared option…

Comments (6)

  • A good question, Alex. From an academic standpoint, to be honest, I’m still very much a paper-man, though I’ve started amassing a collection of (less than legal) textbooks on my computer as references. As someone who moves around a bit (and my current position is no exception), I can’t lug textbooks with me, so I’m looking forward to the day where e-book technology is seamless.

    On the other hand, as you pointed-out, there is still sentimental value in paper-copies. Indeed, I often give books to my friends for Christmas and birthdays, within-which I inscribe with a note. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that this sentimentality is a subjective one (as most sentamentalities are). That is to say, they’re sentimental to YOU because you were born in a period for which paper-books were a part of your childhood. There is nothing intrinsically sentimental about books.

    My point is simply that for the next generation, who will grow up with e-books, it’s not like they’re going to lose anything. For them, sentamentality will be coupled with their first e-book machine (just as some people are sentimental with their Atari machines), their first computer, or something else. We should not ignore newer technologies for sentimental reasons because anything can be sentimental.

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  • By the way: using bolded words to indicate paragraph breaks = total win.

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  • Very good point about sentimentalism, Phil. And you’re also right about text books and such. Those I do prefer in the e version as well… “less than legal” :)
    Also, yes, very cool formating.

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  • i’m gonna go ahead and say that i am obsessed with books.

    not so much reading, though. cus i don’t read. yet i’m a writer. it’s all very complicated.

    but i have books EVERYWHERE. they are more of a decorating prop to me, especially the old ones.

    someday i want the library in beauty and the beast with the floor to ceiling bookshelves and a little ladder.

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  • I love books and have been thinking a lot about what digital will do to their future. There’s nothing like a gorgeous coffee table book–wonder if their sales have increased now that so more and more people are reading on kindle. And there’s something so satifying about turning down the corner of the book to mark your place before shutting the book…

    Hope you’re having a wonderful Monday Alex!
    xo Mary Jo

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  • i didn’t think i would like the kindle either but i took on a vacation and it was a lifesaver. other than that i never use it. i go back to paper books time and time again. i agree with you, it’s 100% about the smell and the cracking of the spine.

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