Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why do we need books?

Why does the world need books?

      When I answered this question last week, I wasn’t thinking of books as objects, I was thinking of literature, specifically. When Jenna responded, she mentioned that this question deserved a discussion of it’s own; so now I’m starting that discussion by looking at why the world needs books - not merely writing or literature, but the books themselves.

I don’t own an e-reader: a kindle or a nook or whatever other brands have come out. I don’t like reading from a screen enough to want one and I don’t need another thing to plug into my cigarette lighter. But apart from that, I don’t own one because I really like the feeling of holding a book. I like the texture of pages - thick, cream-colored journals or barely there Bible pages. I like the scent of books, old and new. Books give us something e-books can’t: a sensual connection to the words. I’m not anti-technology, I love blogging and facebooking, I like the ability to connect to people across the country quickly. But I don’t have an emotional connection to my laptop like I do to my books, I can’t fold down page corners and write in notes in my margins. I think we need books to continue connecting our minds to our senses and to have something meaningful that lasts when technology fails.

Any thoughts?


  1. Well, I think a lot of it is a matter of taste. I don't mind if people still have a visceral, sensual connection to physical books. What I do mind is people therefore trying to make it harder for those of us who like eBooks & eBook readers to get books and to oftentimes get them more expensively.

    As for the differences between reading a physical book and an eBook, well, there's always going to be shifts in how things are processed when going back and forth between mediums. Eventually people will adapt.

  2. Oh no! Do people make it harder?? I guess (and this is my ignorance showing) that ebook readers just went to Amazon and downloaded everything they wanted, and that it is all cheaper than real book.

    I don't think there should be a war on people who prefer ebooks, just like I don't want a war on people who aren't fiber snobs ;) I just like to encourage and enjoy..but do tell me why you prefer them. I've never met anyone who does, or at least, anyone who'll admit they do to me..maybe I'm a little too enthusiastic about my books..

  3. Well, publishers and authors have worked hard to make it more difficult and more expensive. It's finally starting to even out a bit. But there's still wild swings on what some eBooks cost compared to their physical version. It's all a work in progress.

    As for preferring eBooks, well, I was one of the people who said eBooks would never replace physical books for me. Then I got an eBook reader. :)

    As to why I prefer eBooks, well, there's lots of reasons. Both my wife & I are inveterate readers. We would've had to buy a second house to house all our books if we kept getting physical books. As it is, one large room in our basement is pretty much dedicated to holding physical books.

    It's also nice, especially when on the go, to have several thousand books along with you in one handy device. For my wife, a lot of her favorite authors are ones who mostly self-publish and who would probably never get a contract with a major publisher. There are also a lot of good books from indie authors which can be got cheap or even free. Certainly there's also more schlock, but if you know what you like and check reviews when possible, a lot of that can be weeded out.

    There's also lots of classic books available for free. Austen, Dickens, you name it. I've read a fair few classic books since getting an eReader that I'd never read before and probably wouldn't have except for getting them as eBooks. I've also read more in general than I did before and I read a lot.

    Other techie details: I can still do highlighting and bookmarking, etc. My books are saved in the cloud, & with a little work it's also not too hard to save copies of them on your hard drive.

    Also, I'm guessing I'm perhaps 15 to 20 years older than you are & just got my first bifocals this year. I can adjust the font size to make it more readable. :)

    Of course, I still get a lot of physical books but mostly in theology and devotional books. Partly because some can't be got in eBook form & partly because they're a little easier for study use in the office. Plus, people expect their pastor's shelves to be full of books. :) Still, it's been nice lately to go on hospital visits and not have to carry a Bible, a prayer book, & other devotional books in addition to my Communion kit. I have a lot of it on my Kindle.

  4. I didn't know about the anti-ebook crowd in publishing..I can fully understand being frustrated with publishing companies for making it more difficult..authors though..I think that if an author feels that putting out an ebook would be against his vision for the work, his wishes should be respected. Even if that loses him some readers - I'm a big fan of artistic control and I can think of a few situations where I would want to avoid the whole 'e' thing visually..

    I was especially impressed though, with the idea of getting access to self-published writing.. That seems to be the best argument (in my view of things) for ebooks, and I love the idea that writers whose work is outside the publishing ideal can be read and loved..Thanks a lot for sharing, you've really given me a lot to think about!

  5. I had fun responding to this. :)

    I didn't get to it in my post, but George, I'm with you on the publishers and authors making ebooks more difficult and expensive to get. Mass market paperbacks are cheaper than hardbound books, and I won't pay anything more than MMP price for an ebook, which has the added value of searchability but is devalued by not being generally lendable and not helping decorate my living room. :) And not being easy to flip around in, which I harped upon in my post.

    For my own taste, I like ebooks if it's just something I'd like to read once, review, and be done with it. But if I loved a book and might want to re-read it, I want it in hard copy. The difficulty is in predicting that beforehand...

  6. I think the reason the authors were leery of eBooks is that the publishers were spinning wild tales of rampant piracy & claiming that if eBooks became common, then no author would ever make money again 'cause all their books would be pirated. Pretty much most research has debunked this & shown instead that if anybody is costing authors money, it's publishers.

    On the other stuff, it's never been an either/or thing for me. I reread plenty of books I only have in eBook form. I also don't reread plenty of books I have in eBook form. It's kind of a continuation of my relationships beforehand with books. I've just become more willing to give certain eBooks a try especially if they're are low priced. Was a lot pickier with physical books.

    As for the other things like page flipping, well, people will adjust in time. But anyway, paper books aren't going away anytime soon. Which is good. I do know that when it comes to study & research, it's often good and more helpful to have a physical text in front of you. At least for me. But even I'm starting to adjust... :)