Sunday, August 15, 2010

Discussion: The Joys of Books

So, on Twitter this week, Roger Ebert has been making humorous posts about the experiences that one would miss out with e-books versus paper books.  I've been thinking a lot about it and there are a lot of things I would miss if physical books became obsolete.  I'm going to list a few and I would love if you added your ideas in the comments!

1. No gift books or written dedications. There would never be another "Happy Birthday! Love, Nana 1984".  How sad is that?  Not a lot of thought or personalization in a gift card, is there?
2. No book signings.  What would they sign?  I guess you could collect some sort of signed bookplates.  Except they wouldn't be bookplates because you would have no book to put them in.  They would just be pieces of paper.
3. No bookstores.  Browsing on the web or on your device just can't hold up to walking through shelves and waiting for something to catch your eye.  And if there aren't bookstores, where would authors go for signings anyway?
4. No spying on what someone else is reading.  Unless you're willing to look over someone's shoulder, you're never going to know what they are reading on an e-device.
5. No loved and worn books.  Every book looks the same on the e-reader, whether you read it once or a dozen times.  You will never have the satisfaction of seeing a well-loved book on the shelf or the nightstand.

So, what else would you miss if books became obsolete?  What would the world lose?  Let's make the case for books here!

Treasuring my books for many reasons,


  1. hear, hear!
    I am rereading an Agatha Christie mystry at the moment (sad I know). I have owned this particular paperback since 1974! How could an electronic file ever compete with those memories?

  2. The no bookstores would be the biggest loss. IMO

  3. No more smelling freshly printed pages or even old, old books with their aged smell :(

  4. Al - Some of my favorite books are ones handed down from my parents and grandparents. Inheriting their e-readers just wouldn't be the same!

    Diane - I don't know where I would go on the weekends if there were no bookstores!

    Lightheaded - E-readers have two smells ... plastic and burning plastic. :) I would definitely miss the smell of a book.

  5. Authors could sign your breasts or your arm or your buttocks.

    You can still spy on an e-book reader ... it is just much more obvious.

    But then ... errrrr... I guess you have a bit of a point.

  6. That's a good list--I particularly resonated with the no tattered but beloved books.

  7. Jenners - Yes, lets turn it into a rock star scene! It wouldn't be embarrassing to ask Salman Rushdie to sign my chest! ;)

    Jane - I would be sad to not have a familiar copy of a good book to revisit.

  8. No spying on what someone else is reading. Unless you're willing to look over someone's shoulder, you're never going to know what they are reading on an e-device.
    Your post reminded me of a cartoon in last week's Private Eye (a satirical magazine I currently subscribe to)
    It's Grim Up North London
    'Don't get me wrong, Quin, I love my e-reader'
    'The complete works of Shakespeare and a compendium of modern philosophy - all in a machine the size of a paperback'
    'But it has one fatal flaw: no covers!'
    'How can we let the world know of our erudition and breadth of learning?!'

    But yes, I like seeing what other people are reading - that's why I like reading book blogs. (And I like letting other people know what I'm reading, which is why I write a book blog :))

    And no more cafes in bookshops, either! A perfect combination - browse books and then have a cappucino! My favourite cafe is in a bookshop, which is fatal because whenever I go in there I have to practice all of my powers of resistance, as I walk past those piles of beautiful books whispering seductively to me.

  9. Although as a seller of secondhand books I would rather people did not write in them as the customers don't like it, in my personal life I actually like books with annotations. Marginalia give you a little window onto the thoughts of other readers, other times. I think marginalia is what I would miss most with e-books. Plus, of course, there would eventually be fewer secondhand books to sell!

  10. Tracy - Funny! At least those of us who care will always find a way to share what we're reading.

    Jux - Perhaps your business would become much more valuable as the number of books decreases? It would still be a tragedy though!

  11. I find, after having had a Kindle (and related iPhone app) for almost two years now that I read about half of my books in "e" form and half in book form. There are advantages and disadvantages to each and I hope I always have both options. Plus my kids read all their books in book form and I don't think e-readers could ever really replace children's books in book form.

  12. Agreed, agreed, and agreed!!! Some of the very reasons I haven't gone "e" yet! :)