I’ve fought the e-reader movement since its inception. I will continue to do so for a lot of reasons– but I’m still trying to flesh out exactly why I resist yet. I have the Kindle App and admit that it does get used to download a few out of print books that I couldn’t otherwise afford and need for homeschooling. But I always grimace a bit when we have to read on it. Here, this particular columnist makes the case that some types of books are better suited to an electronic apparatus than others. I might be able to concede the point for large collections of reference materials. But I really do love some of these quotes from that piece:
More fetching than a girl with a dragon tattoo has always been a girl with a Penguin Classic. With e-books, you have no idea what anyone is reading. This is an incalculable loss, not just to fleeting crushes but to civilization.
I’ve tried poetry on each of these platforms: Larkin, Dickinson, Philip Levine, Amy Clampitt. It’s not happening, at least not for me. There’s not enough white space, nor silence. The poems seem shrunken and trapped, like lobsters half-dead in a supermarket glass pen, their claws rubber-banded. Poems should be printed on paper, or carved onto the dried husks of coconuts, so one can hoard them.
You can’t read an e-book in the tub. You can’t fling one across the room, aiming, as Mark Twain liked to do, at a cat. And e-books will not furnish a room.
Jonathon Franzen, a best-selling author, had an evocative statement about the physical, tactile experience with a book that makes a lot of sense to me:
“I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience. Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change.”
See more of his warnings against ebooks here.
Lastly, I think there is one sad thing in losing the tangible aspect of books: the inability to easily share something. When gushing about a new book I just finished to a friend and eager to foist it upon her immediately… I need to have something physical. Sure, there are Kindle titles can be shared depending on the publisher’s allowances, but the spontaneity of handing over a creased book that has a page stained in the corner with chocolate or one with the ticket stub to a show left forgotten as it marked the page… nothing really beats that I think. A friend was here last weekend who talked quite clearly about the relationship a reader develops with a book. It is an interaction, an engagement… an investment of time and interest on the part of the reader into the heart, knowledge and the creativity on the part of the author: a two way relationship in a way. Certainly something gets neutered in this relationship with ebooks. Indeed masses of clean, electronically gray words do not even come close to the smell of book, paper, ink… life. I’m convinced losing books is doing much, much more than simply saving paper. So while we may pat ourselves on the back in saving the earth we are perhaps killing a piece of our humanity. Laugh if you think it’s all dramatic hyperbole. But, there it is: my honest opinion of it all.