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The Feel of a Book

The news is out that Borders book store is no longer. As I consider this, I wonder if it’s a sign that books are going the way of the 8-track, cassette, LP, and VHS tape. Or is it an indication that book stored were meant to be independent stores, the neighborhood book store that still seems to be out there but in fewer numbers over the decades. I Google “book store” and up pops nearly a dozen local shops, all closer than my Borders location that will close soon. Maybe Boarders closing will give these stores a bit of a second wind, as I’ll probably stop in them a bit more often. There’s a bigger question, however, as Amazon reported sales of eBooks passed sales of physical books not too long ago, are printed books going the way of the dinosaur? Does it matter? Is there more to a book than the words it contains? As the Kindle commercial mocks, is there something about the feel of a book in your hands, the ability to dog-ear a page and perhaps even write in the margins or highlight some text you’d like to review?

On the other hand, is there a benefit that goes beyond paper in being able to hyperlink words in an eBook, to pull up a definition of an obscure word, or to link to an article that goes into greater detail on the topic? An eBook will also let you search for a word or phrase in seconds while the physical book make take a lot of flipping to find the passage you seek.

Garrison Keillor recently wrote an article titled ‘The end of an era in publishing.” It’s not eBooks that bother him, but rather the barrier to entry is gone. He pines not just for the typewriter, but for the days of a publisher that had to read your work and accept it. Today, whether it be a print-on-demand or eBook, anyone can write what they wish and offer their work to the public.

I find myself torn. I’m not ready to cut loose from paper altogether, but I do appreciate the convenience and compactness of the electronic book.
Are you giving up paper? Have you gone 100% electronic or are you still deciding between physical and virtual?

  • JAL July 21, 2011, 7:29 am

    Personally I don’t miss the heavy books and piles of magazines that used to stack up around our house one bit! I’ve gone 100% digital and now can carry 1000’s of books, reference manuals, magazines, brochures, and newsletters on my iPad around with me at all times, and it never gets bigger or heavier. I won’t even buy a book anymore if it’s not available in a digital version. I feel the benefits gained far outweigh a bit of nostalgia over the feel of a print book.

  • Robert Scott Lawrence July 21, 2011, 2:53 pm

    I find I’ve turned into a kind of hybrid reader. I use the Kindle for commuting, and real books (mostly) at home. Your picture reminds me of my bookshelves — I like walking by them every day and seeing the books out on the shelf. I like being able to pick up books and browse them and put them down. Even if (when) the digital readers are able to mimic the clarity of ink on paper, it won’t be the same.

    I anticipate a sort of Luddite counter-revolution, where people turn off their cell phones and computers and realize that being tethered to the world all the time is depressing. Who can remember the days when you took a stack of books up to the cabin and just chilled out for a long weekend without talking to anyone or checking email. I sort of viscerally miss those days, when IMs weren’t constantly reminding you that your day was not yet done.

  • Ruth July 22, 2011, 4:31 am

    This is kind of scary if you think about it from a certain point of view. With the peak oil situation the way it is, once the electrical grid and internet go down everything loaded on these devices will be lost. If all books are e-books just imagine all the information that would disappear.

    It’s happening sooner than we think, I’ve heard it said we’re in the beginning of a slow-crash scenario already….

  • Don July 22, 2011, 5:19 pm

    I have been a Kindle user for a while now. (And upgrading to the 3G this week coming.) But that said, I will still buy and have many hard copy books. I will look to see if it is available on the Kindle first (which by the way Robert, there is VERY good clarity and no glare on the Kindle!), but if not, I will buy it in hard copy if I want it.

    Reasons I like the Kindle though are many and great. First, the cost of books on the Kindle is in many cases 1/2 price of hard copy print, as well as many are free or next to free! Plus the ability to carry MANY books at once and not break your back.

    Ruth, I do not think that the eBooks will be lost due to oil or related potential issues. The same issues cropping up now have cropped up in various forms for years at the flux of each new tech enhancement that came along.

    Things will stabilize, maybe not as we currently think, but it will flatten otu.


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