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July 01, 2012


Joan Rice

This was such a provocative column. I have to admit that I still just read hard-cover books or maybe paperbacks but no electronics. And, I would NEVER write in my book, having been trained by a librarian mother. I do enjoy enclosing informative articles about the story or author and I hope that some of my children and grandchildren will enjoy them some day. I have to admit that I now am doing much more reading because TV has become so boring. I have started in book clubs but soon left because, despite the benefit of reading books that I might never have chosen, I have my own long list that I must try to finish. Thank you for the fine essays that you provide.

Charles A. Burroughs

Hi Steve - -

A very well written and informative article about the written word in this digital age. I'll take page numbers over percentages any day. Fortunately, I always manage to find space for more (non-digital) books, even in boxes if need be, properly catalogued, of course.


Joyce Spurgin

I bought a Kindle a few years ago but had not used it much until last fall after I developed 4th cranial nerve palsy and consequent double vision. Reading became almost impossible. I've always loved to read plus I had just started classes for deacon formation in the Episcopal church. The Kindle was a life saver since I could increase the print size. I have since gifted myself with a Kindle Fire so I could have color. The 4th cranial nerve palsy has left some mild residual double vision and I have also developed congruence insufficiency, which causes a different type of double vision. I've completed a series of computerized vision exercises and had some improvement and now have special eyeglasses, but I still have vision problems, so I love my Kindle even more. I have improved to the point that I can read regular print for awhile with no problem, but the longer I read the harder it is to maintain focus. With the Kindle I just increase the print size as needed.


I'm thinking if you ask what I'm reading or how I'm reading it I can respond honestly, not at all or simply lie.

If I invite you for dinner, I can choose to show you my shelves of books or not.

If I eread or log my library at a "free" service, I have no choice whatsoever who can browse my "shelves," see what I read (or at least have bought), know my preferences (data mining), etc.

Like TV, ebooks and ereaders are the consumers -- not us.

Rick Estep

Steve, I recently went through my home library to get a count on my books. I only counted soft-covers and hard-covers, leaving out small pamphlets and such. Grand total: 323.
So now I'm curious, Steve. How many books do you have in your home library?
(Forgive me if you have already posted this in a past article)
ps. I still haven't decided on a Nook or a Kindle.

Vickie Ranz

I read both from my Kindle and from store-bought books. I have the stack of books still yet to read so I don't buy off my Kindle so much yet.

Traditionally, you can tell whether or not I really like a book and want to keep it because I buy them in hard back. Sometimes, though, they are no longer available in hard back and a paperback book has to suffice. I think I would be tempted to buy the hard back version if I'd read something on my Kindle that I liked and wanted to keep.

Somehow books that I have purchased from Kindle don't quite seem like they are mine. They still seem like they are borrowed (even though I own them). Although I see the space-saving benefits of buying digital books and having them stored for me on the cloud, I still worry about being able to access them whenever I want to and them being there in the future amidst the unknown threats of technology changes.

The thing I do like about the Kindle is that I can feel free to highlight and make as many notes as I wish without feeling the guilt of disrespecting the book by writing in it. (Although, I do see and appreciate your points about note- taking in books.) I can also transfer those notes anywhere. It's a nice advantage that doesn't represent itself quite as easily or readily as it does on a Kindle or other e-reader.

There are advantages to having both an e-reader version of a book and a paper copy of it. I hope that sales of e-books aren't so predominant that those sales squeeze out the market for printed and bound books. I would love to retain both.

I am a book buyer. That means that it doesn't matter if the book is brand new or very old, I'll buy it. I am not discriminatory when it comes to bookstores or any place, really, that sells books (like antique stores). I have bought books from all kinds of places. I can't see that trend ending until there are absolutely no more physical books in the world available for purchase. We still have a long time before that happens, I think. I think that's true especially when there are people who are interested in saving and preserving books for future generations. As long as those types are around, paper-based books will survive in some form.

Thank you for this post. I think it is one of my favorites. I especially appreciated the pictures that went along with it.

Kathryn Richardson

I love your thoughts, for starters. I don't have an e-reader but my husband does. (He who still doesn't understand his cell phone or how to text. Go figure.) I don't have one because I love to hold a book and turn the pages. I love the smell and the touch of old library books. Also, I'm terribly afraid of doing something wrong and messing EVERYTHING up. It was hard enough to learn what little I know about my computer. E-readers, like smart phones, seem WAY too complicated. But I figure if I ever get brave enough (and wealthy enough) to think about an e-reader and a smart phone, then, perhaps what I really want is an iPad. One device instead of two! But, what was best about your thoughts, is that now I can see why an e-reader or iPad might be a good idea. Clear my house of all those books I would like to read again but don't necessarily need to physically have. An the e-reader or iPad is WAY, way more convenient than the library. Thanks again for some very, very thought-provoking ideas!!!

Claire Phillips

Dear Steve,

In addition to having books in print (some things I must have to hold, to read and, yes, to mark) and on my e-reader and smartphone, I also enjoy books on CD. I am able to sample many different authors and genres without having to invest anything more than my time. It is an entertaining and informational way to pass my daily commute. I too practice a 50 page rule, or the first few tracks of a cd rule. It's not worth my time if it doesn't hold my interest.

Thank you for your thought-provoking posts!

Kelly Seltzer

Hi Steve,
Great blog entry(as usual). I have tried to get into the e-reader phenomenon. My husband has a Kindle and while I love the convenience, space saving and almost instantaneous access, it just doesn't do it for me. I still love to browse the bookstore and hold the book in my hands. I need to feel and smell the pages.It's an emotional connection of some sort that I have a hard time explaining. The New York Times posted an article on June 20, 2012 about how the French are actually shunning the e-reader in favor of books.The article states that from 2003 to 2011 regular book sales in France increased by 6.5 percent. We all know how poorly bookstores are doing in America. Perhaps it's our culture. We need everything immediately. A regular book begs us to slow down. Almost in the same way a fountain pen makes us more conscious of our writing. The weight of the pen feels luxurious. The flow of the ink is personal. Reading a book is the same type of luxury. It's an experience, not just a something to read.

Mike Bollinger

Another good read from you, Steve. Thanks. Am slowly making my way into the digital world with my iPad and must admit to its convenience when I am in travel mode. BUT I still love my paper library! Steve, a question? How do you keep track of your paper library? Is it by hand or do you use some sort of software? Am always looking for ways to upgrade my method

Keep up the great writing. Very refreshing.

Samuel Kordik

Excellent article, Steve. I found myself frequently nodding my head in agreement at your statements.

I am an avid reader, usually finishing six or seven books a month and usually reading in four or five simultaneously. A couple years ago, I did the math, and figured out I'd save money by buying a Kindle and Kindle editions of my reads. Since then, I've moved on to an iPad, and my experience has been great. eBooks let me notate and highlight to my heart's content, then access those notes easily later on. I am away from home probably three nights a week or so, and my Kindle (and now my iPad) take up much less space than a physical book does, and lets me take more books with me. I've even found that an ebook reader in a waterproof case lets me read in the bathtub or at the pool (places I'd never take my precious books).
I'm not reading more, and I still do buy paper books. My book buying stratagem has shifted, though, and now I buy with an eye towards sharing and posterity. I love being able to share an excellent book with friends and family, and maintain a growing personal library for that purpose. Books that are worthwhile get bought and shelved.
The other reason I buy books has to do with the notes I make in them, as you wrote about. If it's the kind of book I will go back through and reference in years to come, then I'll try to get it in hardcover and read it that way. Classics like the *Les Miserables* or great biographies like *Theodore Rex* (my current hardcover read) get that special treatment.

I've found Good Reads is a great way for me to keep track of what I've read; I've just started trying to use to keep track of my library. Currently, my paper library is tracked using Delicious Library, from Delicious Monster software company. It is fantastic software but its lack of availability on the iPad and iPhone are really limiting its usefulness to me.

Jim Seiler

Your post raises many interesting points - one might say even dilemmas - regarding reading preferences. It seems that most readers are favoring a blend of electronic and "tangible" reading choices. But, I have noticed almost a sense of guilt threading its way through the comments. Guilt predicated on the notion we are somehow being disloyal to "real books" if we read electronically. There is a certain sense of irony, though, in expressing that guilt on an electronically posted blog, but that's just my take ... My opinion is the central importance in all of this is: just read. Let the rest work itself out in the moment, or in the plan - even desire - of the reader. Just read ... (I haven't lost touch with page numbers, they are an integral part of an ereader. Percentage, on the other hand becomes a concern of its own, since it determines how much power you have left to keep reading.)
Carpe diem

Jacqueline Bradshaw

Dear Steve,
This is certainly one of your best articles. I am on my 6th Kindle since I can't refrain from passing a great device onto my children and grandchildren. Like so many others, when a really great book comes along, buying the hardback for my permanent library becomes a must. Your 50 page rule certainly turned my reading life around. When the margins of my hardbacks are filled with notes and dates, it has become a way to pass thoughts onto my grans. I eagerly wait to hear what others think about this subject.

Steve Leveen

Thank you, friends, for your most thoughtful comments.

Jim, Yes! I agree, just read! And these comments reinforce the feeling that we've entered a kind of golden age of the book, as we can now read in many different ways to enrich our experiences. Should we feel guilty if we don't read or buy print books? I don't think so. I do feel a bit guilty that I don't read more--in any format.

Rick and Mike, you're causing me to try to do some count of my physical books. My guess is that it's between 300 and 500, which is really tragically small in my opinion. I know some have wandered off, but I feel better knowing at least that I keep good records of what I have read electronically.

Kelly, I love your link to handwriting. Now that paper books and paper notebooks are optional, I treasure them all the more.

Keep reading and writing, my friends!


Susan Young

Several times I've noted your comments about writing in books, and while that is admirable, I cannot move myself to the point of actually doing it. I have come up with a solution and Circa helps me with it. I write an annotated bibliography over each book I read summarizing the plot, copying quotes (with page numbers or location numbers depending on if I'm in a paper/ink book or ebook), and making personal notes. It is quite an investment in time; however, I remember what I read better. The Circa system allows me to organize it all. Then, when I come across information about favorite authors, their inspiration for books, or book-to-movie news, it is easy to add that information to my Circa notebook--right next to my annotated bibliography entry. Through this mental workout, I have grown much as a reader.

Royce Carter

I love to read the old-fashioned way, a book in hand, but we are trying to inprove the reading of children in our local public school by giving them e-readers, and the school is working to provide books on them for them to use.

Sabne Raznik

I'm still entirely a print reader. I just cannot engage with any concentration on a screen. So I guess, at the age of 33, I'm more old fashioned than most! lol

Maurice J Manley Sr

I have been a customer for many years; since the advent of the iPad I notice that your company caters to it only, and not any of the Kindle e-readers, nor the latest Kindle Fire. These devices deserve something, for as your catalog States on the cover "Tools for serious readers"--wouldn't you agree?

From a caring customer!

Steve Leveen

Dear Maurice,

Yes, you're right, and I think you'll be happy to hear that we do, in fact, have several new products coming out specifically designed to support the Kindle. You'll start to see them at the end of July and throughout the holiday season. Thank you for being a longtime customer--and a caring one. I am doubly grateful.

My best to you,


Well, here I am with my beloved books that I have had to wade through to make room for more. It's like losing a dear friend but a person can only keep so much stuff. I have donated a lot of paperbacks to the troops overseas, helped maintain a library at the office for people to donate and borrow. I've brought bags to the library and given to charity. I love the written word and have it on my phone and on my eReader. I'm hooked up everywhere but my favorite venue is the written page that needs turning and a bookmark to keep my place. The only venue I haven't tried is audio books because I cannot listen in the car and drive and I really don't want someone telling me the story, I want to read it myself so the suspense, joy, sorrow are mine alone. I read to my grandchildren, the baby is 3 years old and needs 3 stories before nap and 3 before bedtime. The oldest is almost 5 and loves stories before bedtime as well (she's into princesses right now). It's contagious!!! LOL

Raymond Schumann

Steve, check out Eric Flint’s Salvos Against Big Brother.
Flint discusses electronic publishing from the viewpoint of a writer and editor.
Will paper books vanish?
How should copyright work?
What about Digital Rights Management?
What about online piracy?
Should a writer give his product away?


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