Sunday, February 7, 2010

E-Book Readers

While the chili simmers and the endless hours of Super Bowl lead-ins continue, I popped over to Excite to check the news, and saw a blurb about MacMillan reaching an agreement with on pricing for e-book versions of MacMillan titles (which includes a large number of "brand" imprints, such as Henry Holt, St Martins Press and Farrar, Straus and Giroux) . Amazon has typically charged $9.99 US for the e-version of any book, and a dispute with MacMillan over wanting to raise pricing on these (to around $15) had resulted in MacMillan e-books books, such as Hilary Mantel's Booker Prize winning Wolf Hall to be unavailable for purchase on Amazon, at least for a while.

This got me to thinking about e-book readers in general. Amazon has the Kindle, Sony has its own reader, and Barnes and Noble has the Nook, among others. Being well-known amongst my friends for the voracious reader that I am, I have been asked a bunch of times what e-book reader I have, or am planning to get. My response has always been - none, and I have no plans to get one.

I have nothing against them, but they hold absolutely no appeal to me. There is nothing like the feeling of holding a book in your hands, turning pages rather than pressing buttons, smelling the very pages themselves. In a feeling that may be showing my age (43 and proud of it), I get great satisfaction from finishing a book, wandering down to where my fiction books are stored in four full-sized bookcases, and pondering the row upon row of actual books when deciding what to read next. Looking at the spines, pulling books and looking at the covers, feeling the very heft of the books themselves; waiting for one of them to speak to me and say "read me next". I am not kidding; I actually do this between books. An e-reader might have all the convenience in the world, and be a tool of instant gratification for new book delivery, but it can never replace the actual book itself.

It is true that I could go to Amazon or the Barnes and Noble web site, pick a new book, purchase it, and have it on my e-reader in a matter of moments. But I really like the ritual of the purchase of a new book or books on eBay or Amazon and know that something will be coming in the mail. The anticipation. And when it arrives, holding it in my hands. Or going to a real live actual book store and browsing the shelves - imagine that! My most recent book purchases were a couple of Franklin library leather bound editions from eBay - Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg Ohio and Ivan Turgenev's Fathers and Sons, and Steve Yarbrough's new novel Safe From the Neighbors. The arrival of each was a nugget. And finding a beautiful hard back copy of John McPhee's The Founding Fish ( for $3!) at a used book store. Priceless.

And for the act of reading the book, at the end of a night's reading, I can't imagine replacing putting the book mark in the book and thinking "about halfway done", or "almost there", as opposed to noting at the bottom of the screen, "page 121 of 275". Not the same to my way of thinking.

So, progress marches on, and I come to resemble a dinosaur more and more, but I want books. Real books, not digital versions.

1 comment:

  1. Completely agree. I'm not interested in an e-reader at all. I'm with you on the tactile pleasure of a physical book, plus you can throw one in a bag and take it anywhere. You don't have to worry about dropping it, or if it gets a little wet, or if sand gets in it at the beach. Plus, an electronic device will need charging/new batteries, will be fragile, and will break/need repairs. Plus there are the DRM issues, highlighted by Amazon getting into a disagreement with a publisher and deleting titles from people's Kindles. When I buy a book, it's mine - no one can flip a switch remotely and make it disappear from my bookshelf.