Friday, October 9, 2009

Is an eBook really a book?

One of the readings for a class this week was about eBooks and reading on the Amazon Kindle. As you can imagine, in a publishing program, this topic comes up often. I think it's great that people are reading, I just don't like the idea of the eBook trying to replace a real book. I hate it when people try to predict the extinction of print - whether it be books, magazines, or newspapers. But I don't see eBooks as real books. To me, eBooks take all of the elements that make a book a book and get rid of them. Poof! Or, I guess "zap" would be better. Click? Whatever.

One of the comments in the article I read was from a man who said eBook pages are great because they don't flutter in the wind. That right there is an example of how we're taking the human out of everything.  Obviously a screen doesn't flutter in the wind - but I would call that a con, not an advantage over print books. I want to feel the pages, even if they flutter out of my fingers every now and then. I like running my hands over the textured pages and tracing the tips of my fingers over the cover design. I want to see what kind of font they used and how the chapters are organized.

My feelings towards eBooks are akin to the feelings I harbour for screw top wine bottles. I'm not a wine snob. I just like the old fashioned way; the romance and the routine. I recognize that it's easier to skip the corkscrew and get straight to the drinking, but that doesn't concern me. Taking the time to open the bottle is all part of the process. I understand that the introduction of the screw top wasn't intended as a time saver, but I'm just saying...I like doing it the old way. Some people won't agree, but I think uncorking the wine can be just as pleasurable as drinking the wine.

It's the same with books. I know that I could download an eBook from the web in seconds, but I like visiting the bookstore. And the feeling of finishing a great book is doubled when you file it on your shelf, and it sits there obediently, looking beautiful. Or when you lend that book to a friend. A few years ago I got a used copy of The English Patient that someone had written notes in.

I had no mirrors in my house for three years. Yet - I could always see my reflection: the children, the neon lights, the faces of the Filipino and Russian prostitutes, the eyes of taxi drivers in the rearview mirror, in the raindrops, in the journals, in the music, in the movement. I was never as unaware of what I looked like as I was in Japan - and yet, I was most conscious of how I appeared. 

As soon as I can find something like that in an eBook, maybe I'll change my mind. Maybe. Because it's not just about the words on the page. Reading an eBook is convenient. Reading a print book is an experience. It's about everything that goes into making them, everything that comes out, and everything that follows.

I will say this: eBooks aren't all bad. Just like screw top wine bottles. But I think print will disappear at the same time the french warm up to the idea of twisting a lid off their wine.


  1. I totally agree! I love the feeling of going into a book store and just wandering for nothing in particular. I normally walk out spending WAY too much money, but it's all in good fun. eBooks takes away from the whole experience.

  2. Nothing beats the real thing! The way they feel. The way they smell. I can spend hours in a bookshop. I already spend hours looking at a stupid screen.

  3. "Reading an eBook is convenient. Reading a print book is an experience."

    You've summed up the difference pretty well right there.

    Call me crazy, but after a long day spent in front of the computer, the last thing I want to stare at is yet another screen. I find reading a book or magazine much more relaxing if I can hold it in my hand rather than page through a PDF.

  4. I'm so pleased to see that you guys all feel the same way! When people find out I'm doing my masters of publishing they're all, "why are you doing that? Book are going to be gone soon." JERKS! I kid, I kid...but seriously, you can't replace the real thing.


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