The Sunday Salon – Fear Factor

You are all going to think I’m terribly silly, but I’m really worried about something. 

Actually, it’s several somethings I’m concerned about.  I feel a bit foolish, but…well…here, it’s THESE:



What frightens me half to death is the possibility that these electronic reading devices could one day in the not so distant future eclipse words printed on paper and bound between two covers.   Could eliminate all the diversity of size and type and paper weight and ink perfume – all those sensual qualities that add so much to my reading experience. 

It could happen you know…after all, look at the music industry.  Even I never buy CD’s anymore.  I download all my music onto my i-pod.  Why wouldn’t I?  It’s so much more convenient and portable.  I can carry hundreds – even thousands – of tunes around in my pocket.  Not to mention tv shows, and movies, and podcasts…and yes, even books.  Okay, I admit that I have a couple of books on my i-pod.  But only for emergencies…those rare occasions when I’m caught out without a real book on my person. 

Two of my best reading buddies (both ladies in their 70’s I might add) have E-readers, and I must admit I feel a bit betrayed.  Not only because two of my best sources for book borrowing have completely dried up, but because I feel as if they’re dismissing something near and dear to my heart. 

Until very recently, I had been fairly successful in ignoring these devices, as in burying my head in the sand type of ignoring.  Just before Christmas, my husband said casually, “Oh, by the way, your mother was asking me whether she should get you a Kindle for Christmas…apparently she saw them on Oprah and thought you might like one.”

“Gah!” I screamed.  “No!”

The scoundrel just laughed at me.  “I told her I was pretty sure you wouldn’t care for that,” he said.  “After all, you’re the only person I know who takes a book to bed with them even during a power outage.”

“Well, I just like to have it nearby for comfort,”  I replied haughtily.

“I know,” he sighed.

And then I walked into Barnes and Noble last week, and what greets me first thing – not the usual table laden with new releases, but a huge display featuring the Nook, and two people dedicated to telling me all about it.

My fear factor is escalating.

Somehow I can’t imagine life without books, shiny new ones, but also old musty ones too.  There is character in each book, in the size and heft and smell of it.  There is legacy in the printed page…how do you hand down favorite e-files to your grandchildren?  Where do you put sticky notes in an e-reader, how do you dog-ear favorite pages, or circle striking sentences?  How can you make a decent bookstack out of downloads?

So, what do you think?  Am I over-reacting? Should this ravenous reader be afraid?  Are you?

24 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon – Fear Factor

  1. Dear Becca,
    No, I’m not afraid.
    The book in its pure and natural form will endure.
    I do believe that. I have no proof however. Just sane and aesthetic belief.
    The Nook and Kindle users are college kids and travelers as well as the good old businessmen.
    I, too, take a book to bed whether I’ll be reading it or not.
    And I’m sure we’ve engendered such behavior in our kids.

    But it does make it rather “lean” for you to have book lenders now using e-books. Sigh.

    Oh heck, let’s just keep increasing our TBR stacks and giving books as gifts. And maybe, one of these days, when we want to take several books on a trip, we’ll have a look at the Nook…or, not!

  2. I tell myself that books have existed in this form for *centuries*, so it’s more like a piano vs. an electric keyboard than a CD vs. mp3 file…there’s room for both, and they fill different niches. Because I would weep if hard copy books disappeared in my lifetime. I made it a point to say often and loudly that I would NOT want a Kindle or other e-reader for Christmas. lol

  3. I so understand, I truly do. I am a Bibliophile in Extremis. I LOVE books. I love how comforting it is to see them on my bookshelves & to know there lives a friend and that one. I love flipping pages to find what I’m looking for in a reference book & learning something along the way that I wasn’t looking for. (This could get long, so I’ll desist from continuing.) And, I write.

    I love my iPod, but…..

    the sound isn’t as good as it is on a CD. I’m tired of autotuned voices. I’m tired of the fact that digital does not sound as good as analog recording. I’m tired of missing out on great songs because they’re not promoted…that discover that happens when you listen to an album. I’m sick of not getting to hear an artist’s vision for their album in toto. I’m in the midst of collecting all of the music I love on CD. Bottom line: mp3s are not as good as CDs.

    Same thing with my cell phone. Digital is the culprit again. Background noise HURTS. I’m looking in Goodwill for some old fashioned analog phones. I won’t dump my Blackberry, but I’d rather not talk on it. And, I may be speaking too soon. I may, indeed, dump my Blackberry. I don’t like how accessible I am with it, frankly.

    I tapped around on a version of a Kindle just last night. I hated it. Also, people hate the fact that books may be pulled from it (ie: 1984/Animal Farm debacle), a fiasco if ever there was one. Curling up with a 3 year old to point at pictures on the Kindle? Nooo. Feeling sick and wanting to be soothed by the electric light of one? Noooo. Not for me.

    I’m not a Luddite. I love my computer. I’m interested in new tech. But they better be making an improvement, not just a 2nd rate substitution. And there is no way to improve on books. They’re already perfect.

  4. I have struggled with this issue for the past year. Like you, I love books: the weight, the paper, the smell, marginalia, seeing them on shelves, organizing them, everything. But a part of me eagerly desires the convenience of getting a book exactly when I want it and having reading material at my fingertips all the time. Vacations are especially difficult for me with books. I never bring enough or I’m not in the mood for what I do bring.

    My biggest concern is the loss of books. I do think it a possibility that books will go the way of VHS and CDs; even if they always exist, access to them will become more and more limited. And that would be terrible.

  5. You’ve said it best: “there is character in each book, in the size and heft and smell of it.” Exactly. Everyone in my family knew to wear garlic around their necks if they were going to so much as breathe the word “kindle” over the holidays!

    Books are friends, memories, comfort, enlightenment. They are never static. So, I’m worried, but not yet afraid. And I will be taking a book to bed with me.

  6. I’m afraid, too. The only upside is that I’m justifying my book buying as a way to stock up against the future. 😉 I’ve just written a post that compares the environmental cost of producing books against e-readers, and have to conclude that both have disadvantages, so that particular selling point is not so clear cut as it may seem.

  7. There’s a very good reason why I won’t be venturing down the Sony read route (the only one readily available in the UK, although the Kindle has just reached us) and that is because I use a Mac and they aren’t compatible. I think there has to be a lot more work done yet to iron out all the problems of competing formats before these will replace the universally available book.

  8. I am scared Becca. I value books and its pages, smell, ink, the feel of the cover and the pages. E-readers I believe will be a a pain in the eyes. Sometime in the future, there will be findings about the dangers of e-readers and the junk it could create.

    This manufacturers does not ever think about the circumstances and the effects.

  9. I love physical books so, so much – but I have to say, I am intrigued by e-readers. I wish I could have one for a week, to try it out and see. Mainly what I like about them is that you can fit oodles of books on them for traveling. I doubt I’d use them much at home, where I have my own books, but an e-reader would make packing for travel so much easier. Leaving more room in my suitcase for the books I inevitably buy when on vacation. 🙂

  10. I am hoarding hundreds of books in my house so that when e-readers take over the literary scene (hopefully not for a long time!), I can still read my favorites via real ink on paper!

  11. I love books and do not think they will go away anytime soon, but I admit I am intrigued by e-readers and will probably get one eventually, if just for convenience’s sake. I can see they have practical uses–good for travel, for example–but I definitely cannot imagine curling up with one in bed at night. I can imagine taking one with me during the day if I have to be out and about, though. I tend not to carry books around either because they are library books and I am afraid something will happen to them, or because they are just too cumbersome. I am a small person and I like small handbags, not the garbage bags most women seem to carry everywhere, so it makes taking a book along difficult. 🙂

    My MIL and SIL had one when we went to Germany this past year, whereas I brought along only two physical books (to save space) and couldn’t get interested in either one of them…I admit to wishing then that I had a reader with more books on it!

  12. I’m scared too but had to give into the Kindle before I went on my business trip last May to Germany. I just couldn’t physically bring all the work stuff and my personal reading and I was freaked out to not have enough to read. The Kindle made it possible for me to take dozens of books and newspapers for the long plane ride. I’d never want to give up printed books and only use my Kindle for travel. I’m hoping that books will always be with us!

  13. People often compare the music industry and the book industry but they’re quite different. For most people music is background to another activity and even a long CD is still short. Reading is a primary activity, not background, and it lasts for hours, often over a period of time. For the moment, people who can afford it are curious about e-readers and trying them out. But it will take time to see what format endures and how much and when people use it. My guess is that in the long run, e-readers will have uses for travel and textbooks and physical books will endure.

  14. I’ve had similar concerns, and yet, I’ve considered buying an E-reader. I understand the font can be enlarged. I need that. I occasionally listen to audio books, but it isn’t the same. I’m grateful to have the option, but the intimacy isn’t there. My eyes are giving out, and I’m going to have to make a decision, but nothing will ever replace the feeling of pulling a book off the shelf, smelling it, touching it, and reading that first line. I hope they never disappear. It would be such a loss.

  15. Somehow, I knew you’d all have something to say on this subject!

    E-readers, if used properly, certainly have their place. I can see what a conveniece they would be for traveling, and for carrying around town. Sometimes it seems that we tend to go overboard with technology, though, and neglect the importance of preserving the original ways of doing things. I just hope that doesn’t happen with books 🙂

  16. It is frightening. I can see libraries disappearing. We must march forward with armloads of books! A kindle isn’t a book. I don’t think you can compare a cd or album to an ipod the way you can a thing of paper to an electronic device. Books have personality outside of what is written in them! They are our friends. It makes me shudder to think they might disappear.
    Well, not in my house, or yours!!

  17. I refuse to get one, EVER! But I do have a friend who is in her sixties and has pretty severe arthritis and has found her Kindle to making the difference in her ability to read more. This I can understand. She would rather have a REAL book but can’t. Life is too short to short themselves on books. Buy real not fake:)

  18. CD’s never really had a sentimental connection – unlike records which some people still collect. I think books will be like the records. Some of us will hold onto them, even as we buy electronic versions of the same material.

  19. I happened on your blog while reading through a bunch of comments from Woolf in Winter, and I sympathize totally with your fears about the e-book and your attachment to paper books. I’ve written a couple things about this on my blog since it’s been bothering me for months now. You can see my posts here, if you’d like:

    I’d love to add you to my blogroll, if that’s all right with you…I’m unsure of how one goes about getting more involved with the wider reader/book blog community, or the proper etiquette involved in doing so.

    ~ Margaret

  20. Pingback: The Sunday Salon~Mish-mash « Bookstack

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  22. I can’t wait till i get the I pad, but right now i have too many “real books” to justify buying a device to read books….I love reading, I am not afraid of e-readers

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