« How America Can Get Her Bilingual Groove Back | Main | The end of the bookstore? »

June 08, 2010


Robert Ferguson

What you failed to mention is that other option, audiobooks. This is a great way to experience literature--by having someone read a book to you.

Lynn E. O'Connor, PhD

I have struggled with this for a while now. In truth I spend a great deal of my time reading online. But still, I print out everything I think is important in hard copy, wasting paper and being very un-green. I purchased a Kindle a while ago, and passed it on to my husband who loves it. It didn't quite suit me, I skim (academic, quasai academic, social science, light neuroscience) books very fast, and somehow my method seems to require hard copy, an ability to glance at headings, beginning of paragraphs, things I found hard to do on the Kindle. Then came the I-Pad. It is by far the best e-reader I've seen. And yet still --for example--I purchase a book on Amazon for kindle for the mac. I download it and read it on the mac, or now, sometimes, I transfer it to the I-Pad. But if it really grabs me, has content I need or want to reflect upon, I go back to Amazon and order a second copy, this time hard copy. I'm ending up with two copies of books I deem important to my work, e-version and hard copy version. Maybe this is my age, I'm an older generation. And yet, most of my reading is in fact, done online. There is still this problem of speed reading, or skimming fast that I find so hard to do on e-versions of books. I'm curious what others have to say about the e-book/hard copy thing we are looking at today. Thanks for your blog.

Lynn O'Connor

ron weekes

From one who still employs a fountain pen and appreciates the heft of rag-content paper, I mourn the demise of the printed word. Seems more and more folks are visual rather than tactile...but, whatever encourages one to broaden their horizon -- be it hardbound book or kindle -- is to be applauded. The demise of literacy would be a sadder passing, methinks.

Barb Thames

Ah, yes, life - and reading - have definitely changed even for us old folks.

I live in a small town in the midst of farm country and spend a good bit of time behind the wheel of my vehicle (and it used to be even more when I worked out of state). Because of the travel, I began renting books on tape - and then CD.

Then about 3 years ago I asked my sister for an MP3 for Christmas - not for music but for recorded books.

Today I have 1530 'real' books catalogued on LibraryThing (not counting read-and-pass-along paperbacks) and 42 in my Audible files on the computer for the MP3.

I love the flexibility of it all. And I'm thinking about getting an e-book reader as well. Why shut myself out of one variety of reading?

Jon Rosen

I love paper books and use fountain pens for writing nearly all of the time. But, as someone who has lugged many, many cartons of books around during moves, I plan to only buy eBooks when possible. I've never used a Kindle, but I have an iPad. The reading experience is very good and bound to improve over time as the software and display technologies improve. There are things that can't be done yet with a single eBook reader. You can't open three books at once to compare something, but prices are bound to go lower and lower, so having more than one eBook reader isn't unlikely in the future.

In addition to some obvious advantages, eBooks bring the promise of being able to update books over time. Wouldn't it be great if you could pay an upgrade fee to get new versions of textbooks and other technical tomes?

Electronic books are certainly "greener." Just as mp3s have reduced the need for CDs, electronic books will reduce the need for paper in a big way. It may also mean that new authors will have an easier time finding an audience once distribution is free.

I'm sure I'll always appreciate paper books, but the future is undoubtedly headed for eBooks.

Lori Brown

To be honest, I find reading books on screens like my computer and Kindle or Nook very hard; I get an excruciating headache, while reading a hardbound book (or a well loved paperback) tends to relax me and cure that digital headache. I love the smell of books and visit my local library just to breathe the air and look through the stacks. My daughter and I soothe our souls in bookstores or book fairs and I can't image being able to do that with electronic press. I do like audio books and find myself using them to prescreen future additions to my home library and like to listen while driving, but I still prefer a book I can hold and pages I have to grasp to turn.

Steve Leveen

What marvelous commentary and ideas!

Audiobooks (and I'm a huge fan who wrote a chapter on them in my book) taught millions of us that books don't have to be printed. eBooks are taking that to the next step. Might ebooks lead to more reading and more printed book purchasing? It already has for some of us. What a reader's world of plenty we have now. We may have passed the golden age of printed books, but we might be entering the golden age of reading.

W.T. Underwood

For my 84th birthday, our three children and mates chipped in and gave me a Kindle. It is a marvelous device with a handy dictionary and links to lots of useful
sites. It is great for reading on planes. Never will it replace a "book" that I can hold in my hands and turn the pages and just let flop open to some place and reread from there. A Kindle cannot be lined up on several, or many, bookshelves to wait there for months or years for me to rediscover and read the lovely contents once again. On an allied subject, it is a tragedy that print newspapers are disappearing from the scene. Much fault lies with the papers themselves. Once again a paper at breakfast can be taken apart and shared with your mate, recipes can be cut out to go on the tall stack of others that you are going to prepare "soon." Wise articles which substantiate your political views can be put up on the icebox. Contrary ones with radical views can also be posted with appropriate caustic comments alongside. Electronic gimcracks will supersede print media but they will not replace it.

Carol Hill

"It may also mean that new authors will have an easier time finding an audience once distribution is free."

If distribution is free, how will authors be paid? And, if authors can no longer make a living, will there be any new authors? Also, one of the ongoing debates in the book business the past few years has been the issue of quantity vs. quality. So, won't the easy addition of e-books just add to the quantity, making it that much harder for quality writing to find an audience?

I own a small bookstore, so am obviously partial to printed books, but do accept that e-books will have a place in the book world. For example, issuing students e-readers when they begin first grade, and then updating them as they proceed through school seems like a reasonable idea.

However, on a personal level, I have several reasons for clinging to printed books:
(1) I read a lot of non-fiction, for pleasure and research, and I really use my books--they are chock full of highlights and margin notes, and I rely on visual cues, such as whether something was on the left or right facing page (which I usually remember) when I have to look something up. Sometimes, just looking at the bookcases will jog my memory. I don't know how many times I've scanned my books relying on the unique visual appearance of every individual book to remind me of where I read something.

(2) I have a houseful of filled bookcases, and when I imagine those shelves emptied and all those books (and memories) replaced by an e-reader, it feels very cold and sterile. There's something 'cuddly' about a printed book--I love to curl into a corner of the sofa with a book, and it's comforting to turn the pages of a book I originally opened forty or so years ago. I can't imagine getting that same cozy feeling holding an electronic device. Printed boooks are personal. I gave my son all his childhood books when my first grandchild was born. Sure, I could have easily given him new copies, or e-copies, of Winnie-the-Pooh, Dr. Seuss, Curious George, Pippi Longstocking, etc., but they wouldn't have had his name inscribed by his 7-year-old hand, or his crayon "drawings," or the jelly stain from one of his PB&J's.
Electronic data is something meant for robots, not people.

(3) I live in the mountains, and I've been reading outdoors for as long as I can remember (I had to have something to do on all those fishing trips). I realize you can use an e-reader outdoors, but why risk damaging or losing an expensive device, or relying on batteries to keep you reading, when all you need is sunshine or a kerosene lamp (or sometimes a good campfire)? And, if your book happens to fall into the lake, big deal. You'll be out $8-$15 if it was a paperback, and about $26 if it was a hardcover, not hundreds for an e-reader or I-Pad.

4) Can children really engage with a book that's part of an electronic gadget? I try to imagine future kids (my grandkids?) packing for camp and tucking their 'favorite' e-reader into a duffle bag, and it doesn't even make sense to me. How does a child connect with one book when his/her only access to it is through a device that holds hundreds (maybe thousands) of them. How can 'Call of the Wild' become a child's favorite book if it is little more than data buried in some piece of electronics. And, does anyone really want five-year-olds playing around with expensive electronics? Also, think about a Caldecott book, where the art is frequently as fundamental to the story as the words. Will the reader experience and appreciation of that art be the same on a screen as it is on paper?

5) As any real book junkie knows, the first thing we do with a book we love is shove it into someone else's hands, telling them, "You've got to read this book!" But, how do you do that with an e-reader?

As a 60-something, I don't have to get too worried about the print vs electronics debate. I'm about as techie as I'm going to get and I'm more than happy with my printed books, especially the books that I've packed and unpacked many times over the years.

A book is so much more than its words.

J Bradshaw

I love my Kindle, but still order the "real thing" when I read a book I want to remember forever.

My library of 'real books' is now concentrated on those I wish to keep and want others who stop by to adore.

Ps: I own copies of almost all of the Levenger books available for my permanent library. They look beautiful, and contain timeless info. J. Bradshaw

Ann Dees

As a librarian for 35 years, I too have had a hard time letting go of a hardback book. I for one believe (and hope) that there will always be libraries with books of paper. Living in Mississippi, there are many who can not afford the electronic books, readers, etc. A public library fills that gap. I do own a Kindle (for about 6 months now) and truly love it. There is great joy in downloading a book in 60 seconds while I am sitting on the patio by the lake. There is also joy for my husband who does NOT have to cart my bookbag that weighs on ton on vacation. I still own a book bag, and it still contains books. He asked what I needed it for...my answer, those are my emergency books.

The comments to this entry are closed.