Thursday, March 11, 2010

Which Side are You On?

There's a bit of a battle raging concerning electronic books -- or electronic "books," depending on where you stand.
Lots of folks deplore the very idea of any thing other than a physical printed-on-paper book. Others have joyously adopted the new technology. 

It doesn't, of course, have to be all one way. Plenty of people who adore a "real" book will still make use of an E-book for travel, commutes, what have you. Then, too, there's the advantage of being able to adjust the print size. Or order on the spur of the moment and receive your download instantly.

I think I've made it clear how much I love books. Our house is overflowing with them and I'm quite attached to the heft, the smell, the memories connected with certain well-worn favorites.

Nor do I own an E book. I did download  Kindle to my laptop for free, just so I could see what the reading experience was like. (It's okay, but I spend enough time at my laptop as it is. And I did download THE COMPLETE WORKS OF CHARLES DICKENS for an amazing 99 cents. Just because I could.)

But the E books are coming. I don't spend a lot of energy lamenting the possible eventual demise of 'real books' -- they'll continue to be around for years to come for those of us who love them. If future generations get their stories from electronic devices, so be it. Here's an article pointing out some interesting innovations ahead.

I'm already dreaming about a book that could have illustrations like, well, this blog. And links, instead of footnotes, for readers who wanted to follow a particular train of thought. I think it could be really amazing. And much greener, come to that.

And whenever I hear someone bemoan the fact that they'll just never be able to enjoy anything that isn't a real book, I think about all the folks who were really attached to their scrolls.


Callie Brady said...

I love the scroll comment!
Have you ever seen this medieval help desk spoof?

I love my hardback books and yet I would like to have an ebook reader. I'm waiting for one to come out that I want to use. Maybe the Ipad?

Books that I re-read are books that I want to own in hardcover. One/first time reads are library books, used, paperback, or loans. But when I find a book I love then I buy it in hardcover so I have it at hand.

If I had an Ipad I could use it to sample a lot of books and hopefully find a lot more books I would want to buy in hardcover and put on my shelf to re-read.

I know I could re-read them on the reader but I love the tactile experience of holding the printed book and turning the pages, the smell of the book, and the sound of the pages turning.

Curling up in my quilt, with a kindle and a cup of tea just doesn't appeal to me.
I want my hardcover.

I do think that being able to download some books with illustrations/photos would be a great advantage especially for students.

Personally, I would like to have both available to me.

Maybe all books will come to be printed on demand in hard or paper cover and/or also available as ebooks.

Poetry24 said...


"I'm already dreaming about a book that could have illustrations like, well, this blog. And links, instead of footnotes, for readers who wanted to follow a particular train of thought."

I have a friend who is working on this kind of development for his PhD, so it's probably on its way.

This is a debate close to my heart. In academia, eBooks were making an appearance around a decade ago. During my postgraduate studies, I undertook a comparative study of newspapers in paper and electronic format. Interestingly, paper came out on top. So there is hope for the book as we know it.

Pat in east TN said...

Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but I like the look, feel and smell of the actual book in my hand, and I, like you Vicki, have a house overflowing with books, none of which I can part with.

A Kindle has been offered to me several times, and I try and weigh out the pros and cons, but then I just end it there with no decision. I do have several friends with Kindle's and they say they're THE best, and give me many reasons why.

I'm with Callie ... curling up in my chair with a Kindle and a cup of coffee just doesn't really do it for me!

Tess Kincaid said...

The e-book is just so sterile. You know I'm all about the scent, texture of the paper, the beauty of the font, the feel of the cover in my hands. I'm a hopeless romantic, especially when it comes to books.

Books online are a great way to quickly find a passage for documentation, etc. But I don't like them, as far as reading an entire book.

Nancy M. said...

Vickie, I don't think I could ever give up my books! I love passing books on to others once I've finished with them (some, however, I do keep just for myself); in fact, I have a huge box of books in the back of my car just waiting to be passed on!! I don't think you could get the same type of enjoyment out of an electronic book - and yes, I do "dog-ear" my books (shame on me!) - couldn't do that with an electronic one!!!!!

Carol Murdock said...

I can remember as a young girl going to the local library and loading up on books. You could check out 12 books for 4 weeks.
I would lug them home, walking of course. I felt like I was toting treasure!! I still feel that way about a stack of books! If they quit printing them today I would have enough to keep me reading till I'm too old to care. NO KINDLE for this girl! :)

KarenB said...

While I love the realness of books, I also have a Kindle and find it very useful for certain situations. Traveling especially. On a recent trip across the country I brought 3 books for me and one for my son and bought him another when he had finished his first. All weighing less than a trade paperback. I know someone with macular degeneration who finds the clarity of the print as well as the adjustable font size to be invaluable. I guess I just don't see it as an either/or situation for me.

Vicki Lane said...

Callie -- I have indeed seen that. Too funny! And that's an interesting point- using an e-reader to sample what you might want in hardcover. I've used the library that way -- there are some books I know I'll reread again and again and that's when I really want hardcover.

Martin - I'm thinking it'll be a generational thing--that future generations won't have this attachment to paper that so many of us (including me) feel. Interesting about your friend's Phd.

And I'm with all of you on the non-appeal of curking up with a Kindle. But for a commute or travel, I think it would be terrific.

And when I'm too arthritic to hold a heavy book and/or my eyesight is bad, I think an e book would be marvelous.

As Karen said - it doesn't have to be either/or.

Catalyst said...

Well said, as always.

Tammy said...

Not saying I won't...but as it stands now, I will keep on with my 'real' books. ;-) Nothing like the smell and feel of a book, or seeing a shelf full in a room. Also, there isn't too many places I can't carry a paperback with me to read if a moment presents itself (I have a big purse and I'm always prepared! ha). I work on the computer all day and they do tend to strain the eyes, so it's restful to have a print book to read before bed. I've found I detest 'catalog' shopping online as opposed to actually seeing the products in print and being able to compare them visually. I do allot of ordering online, but mostly I know exactly what I need, so it isn't as difficult. I have been looking for info on how to replace the screens on the travel trailer--all over the nets, spending way too much time trying to find the info. Guess where I finally found a good informative picture filled tutorial? my pile of books. Anyway--technology is constantly advancing, and there isn't any need to get bent out of shape about it. However, books will always have place here, and if we have another ice storm or such and the nets get shut down? Well...I'll be just fine with all my dusty old books to entertain me. ha...Have a good one.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Vicki - GREAT post.

When the eBook debate first started I was firmly in the "NEVER! Not for me!" camp. Well, as so often happens when I firmly state my mind, I've come to view things differently.

I'm not in any hurry for one, because right now I'm still quite happy with my "real" books. Additionally, I'm enjoying watching the progress of the technology, and can't wait to be astounded at what's coming.

I agree with what you said - it doesn't, I think, need to be an either/or thing. Some book collectors are now saying they'll buy their first editions, have them signed by the author, and then put them on the shelf unread while they read the book on their Kindle or whatever. Thus keeping their signed first editions truly collectable.

What I do think I'd love about the Kindles (or whatever) is the feature of being able to have the book you want RIGHT THEN! The cost of those books becomes especially important when it's a "new to me" author. I can't afford to plop down $25.00 for EVERY new hardback book written by an author I'm not familiar with - no matter how interesting it sounds. So, I could purchase the less expensive Kindle (or whatever) version; then if I love the writer's work - buy the hardback or paperback.

And then there's the old folks' home issue - I'm thinking they're not gonna let me bring all my books, but they would have to let me bring my Kindle. Right?

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

I'm a book fan myself and I'm not sure I'm ready for a Kindle yet. I enjoyed looking at one a friend had and think it would be terrific if I traveled more.

I think I'll wait a while and see the changes technology will bound to bring to the e-books.

Vicki Lane said...

Thanks, Catalyst!

Yep, Tammy, I'll never, God willing, be without real books around me. And these devices are still a tad pricey.

But, as Kaye says, should I end up in the cramped confines of a nursing home, a kindle would be dandy.

And, like Sam, I think I'll wait and see what happens to the technology. I'd like color.

Bo Parker said...

Digital text readers are one more example of how progress moves faster than some folks can accept and adapt to change. My first real world exposure to this human condition came in the early 1950s.

There were a few families on my side of the mountains⎯and I’m certain there were a few on your side⎯who refused to accept the advantages of electricity. The idea made them feel uneasy. They lived “off the grid,” maintaining the “comfort” of a lifestyle they and their ancestors had known for generations.

Progress, increasing at an exponential rate, is reaching deeper and deeper into the human psyche, influencing the way we live our daily lives. The idea of “curling up with a good book” has come to represent the hypothetical panacea that the alchemists sought: the remedy that cures all undesirable, unwanted human conditions.

We’re not rejecting the many advantages that digital text readers present. We are clinging to one of those small things that we have come to associate with a feeling of comfort in our lives. It’s that somewhat unreasonable, but understandable human condition that began to develop when we formed an inseparable bond with that teddy bear or rag doll in the crib.

When our grandchildren, or maybe their kids, have a need for comfort, they will curl up with their digital text reader while they eat their bowl of chicken noodle soup. Chicken noodle soup? There are some things immune to the march of progress. Or, at least, I hope that’s true.

Friko said...

coincidence! I am just thinking of a post dealing with books, but that sort of plan takes a while before it's born; when I get to it I shall refer to your post on ebooks, of which i have no experience at all. I have therefore no real opinion either.

books have been a part of my life for all my life, the smell, the dust they collect, the pleasure to get them off the shelf, can an ebook come anywhere near?

Miss_Yves said...

Each system of reading has certainely its own interest according differents uses ...but the price of E. Books (I mean linked to a public library)is very expansive in France .
I enjoyed very much "le secret des Appalaches"!-(I prefer the American title, Art's blood )
Some organized comments later!
Beautiful collage of your home with lots of books !

Vicki Lane said...

Right you are, Bo! Change is almost always disturbing and we cling to the old ways for comfort. I'm not in favor of change for change's sake -- and some of the old ways -- raking leaves rather than using a leaf blower, for example -- are more aesthetically pleasing and well as more environmentally friendly. But sometimes not.

I don't have much experience with them either, Friko --

Miss Yves, here the device itself is quite expensive but the downloaded books are considerably cheaper than 'real' books.

So glad that you enjoyed Le Secret des Appalaches!

Miss_Yves said...

I fear it's very difficult to translate the poem of Henri Michaux"Clown"

The plot of Your novel is very well built and it's very exciting to find your way of life, gardening, cooking, recipes, landscapes through the story!

Pame Recetas said...

Dear Vicki! This discussion has been taking place for a long time in my home, I am the one fond of books, while my husband is always willing to go further in any electronic novelty. I only know I want to have as much books as I can read, and I do hope there will be the nice E-books with colors and links you're thinking about, that would be better than paper print. Anyway, what we need is readers, if an E-book is inspiring enough to make people read, let's welcome the E-book!

Tipper said...

Wonderful post-and wonderful comments by all! I think Karen is right-not an either or question. I love my books too-but I'm a neat freak so I worry about keeping to many books-so thinking of putting the pile into a neat little kindle is kinda of attractive.

Anonymous said...

My Dad, at age 87, isn't interested in
computers and won't let himself be enticed even by original source materials for history which he loves. He "upgrades" each year by getting a new almanac for Christmas each year and used his "graphite pencillium" with an "auto delete" on the top instead of a work processing program. (Otherwise known as a pencil and eraser.) But I suspect that ten, no make that five, years from now we'll all be using some combo of e-accessed books and paper books.

Lynne in GA

Vicki Lane said...

Merci bien, Miss Yves!

Tienes razon, Pamela! It's the reading that matters!

Tipper, it's a hot topic for lots of folks. Writers and publishers all wonder if they'll make more or less from sales of e books. And of course, it hurts the bookstores...

Graphite pencillium with auto delete!!! Stealing that for future use, Lynne!

Victoria said...

Here, unless one lives on the edge of the rim that overlooks the San Bernardino valley, e-books aren't available. Same with wireless internet.

Even if it were available, I'm not sure I'd use it. I love the feel of holding a real book in my hands, I love going to the bookstore to buy books that I know I will keep and re-read and I love being surrounded by books. I'll be walking by one of my bookshelves, spot a title and think, "Ah yes, that's where my friend, Elizabeth Goodweather, lives. I haven't visited her in a while. Time to remedy that!"

No...I don't think I'll ever be a fan of e-books.

Pat said...

I have thought about this a lot and looked at others' Kindles and the Nook at B & N. But I really prefer my own books. I already spend too much time on my computer. As Callie said, "curling in my quilt with tea and Kindle"????Nah not for me either, at least not yet and that is my nightly ritual before hitting the bed!

Perhaps if I were still full time employed and traveling around on business it would appeal more to me, but I can easily take along my books in the RV.

I'm watching with interest. And waiting to see what's next because I know it will be changing...I would have another full room in the house if I didn't have so many books, but they are mine and I love them! .

Vicki Lane said...

I often have that same feeling, Victoria -- looking at all the books line up there, each book containing a world. And I love being able to put my hand on an old favorite -- the dull green one there with the tear in the cloth on the spine or the paperback held together by a rubber band-- really should replace that with hardback -- it can't survive another reading...

They are mine and I love them -- that says it all, Pat!

chiccoreal said...

Dear Vicki: Electronic books, like audiobooks are making the literary world more assessible to the commonperson. How could that be a problem? Hopefully the d/l are much less expensive than the paper variety, and ideally as free as the Carnegie libraries. Hopefully I won't get migraines from the flickering electrons.

Vicki Lane said...

More accessible is good, indeed, chicoreal. Free -- that's what makes the publishing industry -- as well as this author -- a tad nervous. If people come to expect free books, just because they're not in hard copy, how will, to make it personal, I be paid for the year of blood sweat and tears it takes for me to write a book?

joanna said...


Interesting post and an interesting dilemma -- our world 'e-changing'
What does Marilyn Monroe, you and I have in common -- answer at the bottom..
When I was much younger then I am now, my mother used to go to all the wonderful second-hand book stores in New York and buy books for us,,some gold leafed,others had colorful illustrations , leather bound, cloth bound, I really do not know what she based her selection on - Most of the times the books were really a higher level of reading , like Milton's "Paradise lost, - but I read them anyway lost in them for hours, Her theory was I would open and read them because of their beauty rather then the cheap paper books or comic book that were so popular, back then..
Guess what -- Mother's are always right.
Hence my lifelong love of books.

Vicki Lane said...

Good point, Joanny -- there's not much tantalizing about an e-reader -- except to a techno-geek.

Kimberly Haynes Titlebaum said...

I am an amateur Medievalist and a bibliophile. A couple of decades ago I even learned techniques of calligraphy, illumination and bookbinding to create my own Book of Hours as a Lenten devotion. And yes, thank you, I DO have a life-albeit a quirky own! I have a wary respect for technology and, after years of patient labor, my beloved techo-loving hubby now entertains fond hopes of dragging in the the 21st Century without actual bloodshed.

Imagine my surprise when at Christmas a friend showed me her new Kindle and within minutes of exploration, mere polite interest morphed into a lust for possession!

I adore going on vacation and taking every new and old book I could conceivably read along--and still having room to pack my clothes as well!!! I love reading a book review at 2 a.m. wearing my PJs, and two scant MINUTES later I can be reading that same book without driving to a bookstore, or waiting for the mail.

And I love being able to page foward or back without having to put down my cup of coffee. And never losing my place without stuffing the book with tissues, envelopes, or shopping lists.

Will I give up my paperbacks, my hardbacks, my used books? Never. I still love the tactile pleasures of books. I often have multiples ofbeloved books because sharing is so much fun but it can be vexing in the extreme to loan out a great book and it never makes its way home. ( yes, I have been guilty of being on the forgetful borrower end of the stick too..mea culpa) But I can always keep a copy on my Kindle and loan the used books merrily.

Plus an autographed Kindle is not as much fun as an autographed Title Page.

Also, Japanese steeping tubs and Kindles do NOT go together. Just FYI.

Give me books early and often. Give them to me in any and ALL forms!

Vicki Lane said...

What a great comment, Kimberly! Obviously this isn't an either/or issue for you -- nor is it for most of us, I think.

But I want to know about the book you did! I've always loved illuminated books and have thought how nice it would be to be able to do one. Do you have pictures?

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

I think we will see an upsurge in handmade books--small limited editions with handmade paper, hand-sewn, illustrations, more letter-press. People will not let go of book-making. It's too satisfying. And it's fun!

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, I hope so, Kay! Little treasures . . .

Kimberly Haynes Titlebaum said...

There are pictures...somewhere. I entered it in a Arts and Science Competion soon after it was finished. I think I got a third place but I really remember the judges practically wrote a book of comments, suggestions and techniques. The book was about 5x 7, covered in sage green velvet with cabuchon stones and a ribbon tie close. I had learned a calligraphy hand called Irish-round hand a couple of years earlier and used that. The illumination was just a fruited vine and leaf design from a 15th Century sheet of music I had been given as a wedding present. I remember using acryllic paints and was marked down hugely for not using the more period tempera.(I did use tempera for another project and was delighted at how easy it was to make and use)I could only use a small fraction of the prayers and psalms I had calligraphied. When I started to stitch the pages together It was going to end up thicker than it was wide or tall.

I kept the left over pages for years, always planning to make another Book of Hours and this time use gilded and tooled leather. Alas, those pages were packed and unpacked in at least five or six moves. I remembered running across them from time to time and saying "Oh, soon as I get organized in the next house..."

I haven't seen them in at least two moves and think it would be easier to start over than to unearth them from the dozens of boxes waiting in my basement to be unpacked.

I know there is a picture of me wearing a Early Tutor gown with the book as an accessory. I will start looking.

Vicki Lane said...

Well, how cool! Thank you, Kimberly, for more information! Hope you find those pages eventually!