I blogged once on the other writing site I belonged to about my fictitious retort to a question about what movie I would take to a deserted island with me. I hate that question by they way. A friend from back in Canada commented that I should be more concerned with the fact the question has changed from what book I would take to what film. She raises a very good point. I should be more concerned with that (especially as a writer), but I’m not going to talk about that today. I will sort of talk about the subject matter though.
Back in my first year of college (the second time – wait, the third time) I was doing a group assignment for my research class and our topic of discussion was the E-Book, or electronic book. This was 12 years ago now, and the E-Book revolution is upon us in full swing. Apple has one, Amazon has one, and there are probably knock-offs as well. One of the girls I give my seat up to on the metro each morning has a Kindle, the E-Book by Amazon. She loves it. Me? Not so much.
Call me a realist, call me old fashioned, call me against modern technology but I just don’t like the E-Book. I’m the guy opposed to pre-marital sex because it isn’t traditional remember? And if you buy that can I ask you to buy 10 copies of my book when it comes out? Thank you very much. Regardless of my views on tradition and the bedroom, or lack thereof, I just don’t like the E-Book.
I love the smell of books. I love the feel of books. I love having arguments with pretentious 19-year olds who wouldn’t know a life experience if it dropped a load on her back and ran off with her mother, about why it is okay to have dog-eared pages in a book. Seriously, it is okay to have a book that looks like you’ve read it. In my Publishing Prose class I brought in a copy of the book that my teacher had written to get him to sign it and he was delighted to see that the pages were dog-eared and it looked tattered. To him, and I’m the same way, it looked like it had been read, and read more than once. It had been. You want to keep a book in pristine condition? Buy the hardcover and lock it away like you lock away your balls when your spouse asks you to do something you don’t want to and buy the paperback to mess around with like the girl we called the village bicycle. See, not so difficult a decision is it?
You don’t get this sense of ownership with an E-Book. You don’t get a tangible feeling when you pick one up and turn it on. And it’s not like I’m completely adverse to technology. I have an iMac, a laptop, a mobile phone, an iPod. I even have a digital camera although I think that black and white 35-mm film is the only way to take a photo. I have modernized and changed with the times. I even think it’s cool for a girl to ask a guy out! And she can definitely make the first move. I just don’t like the E-Book.
I have always wanted to have the big study or writing room in my future abode complete with the built-in bookshelves housing hundreds of books. You’d find everything from reference books to the so-called classics to books of dirty limericks (are there other kinds) to the books written by all my friends and colleagues. Some of these books may overlap and interweave. My friend Anthony from school could finally put his talent at rhyming dirty words to good use and write a book of limericks, but be educational enough to use as a reference manual. Seriously, you have no idea how clinical that dude can make things sound.
I can’t explain it, but there is something wonderful about sitting down and holding a book in your hands. The way you have to carefully turn each page so as not to tear it out, or worse, skip a page and completely mess up the story. I’ve had hours long reading sessions where my thumb turns a delightful shade of charcoal grey as the ink seeps from the pages into my thumb. I love that. I love that when I sit down to write afterwards the remnants of the words I have read are flitting around in my head and smearing across the page as I try and write my own words. I love the fear of avoiding paper cuts. I love trying to organize my books on a bookshelf not in alphabetical order but by height, from tallest to smallest. For a more obscure look you can try thickest to thinnest. The bookshelf resembles a graph at times like this and can be quite pleasing on the eye.
Books are meant to be seen, to be held. How many times has a cover image captured your attention? Mine too. You don’t get that with the E-Book. Books are meant to be used to teach wayward girls to be lady-like by balancing them on their heads as they learn to walk proudly. Books are meant to be used by kids needing an extra bit of height to steal a cookie from the cookie jar. You don’t get that from E-Books either.
Granted, the E-Book does have some benefits. I’m educated enough and secure enough in my manhood to admit this. The E-Book is better for traveling. I could only bring a handful of books out here with me as they take up plenty of suitcase space and weigh a ton. The E-Book remedies that problem. You never have to worry about losing your page with an E-Book either (although that takes away the fun for me). Once the initial cost of buying the E-Book is out of the way I believe the titles you buy are cheaper too. As a consumer, this is pretty good I suppose. Now, I won’t say “no” to my book being available electronically but I’ll be prouder to see it sitting on your bookshelves.
Besides, how the Hell I am supposed to autograph your E-Book anyway?