I’m sure the headline was designed to incite a little riot, or at the very least, get a good dialogue going in the comments. The author of the post admitted her own ambivalence to eReaders early on. “It all seemed so impersonal,” she wrote about reading electronically. But in the wake of two cross-country moves, which involved major culling of her humongous bookstacks, she began to see the appeal of eradicating books from her life completely. She began “playing around” with eReaders (specifically the Kobo) and found that she “liked it immensely.” Even her fears about eReaders destroying the “readerly experience” appeared to be unfounded. “I worried about the loss of the experience of snuggling up with a book and a cup of tea — I thought the readerly experience would suffer. But it hasn’t! It’s just changed. Now I like to turn the lights out and curl up with my iPad switched to “Night Reading” mode and have this perfectly secluded world that is all about me and my book.”
I don’t feel this way about the eReading experience. I love my iPad, but for some reason I can’t stand having it anywhere near my bed, much less curled up in it with me. Frankly, I’d rather be curled up in bed with an income tax course studying to become a tax preparer. But I have no problem with others who prefer digital reading to paper books. But I must take exception to the author’s suggestion that we “burn all the books.” There are still those of us who love physical books, who are happy to make room for them in their homes, and who are hoping against hope that books will continue to be published in paper form.
Just last week, I unpacked a box of books that belonged to my son, books that he had loved at every age and stage of his life. Pat the Bunny, the Berenstain Bears, Winnie the Pooh and Peter Rabbit, John Bellairs mysteries, Shel Silverstein poetry. How happy I was to have kept these books for the past 25 years, because now I can pass them along to my Grandson. Somehow, handing over an eReader just isn’t the same experience. It saddens me that, in a world which is so crammed full of stuff and places to buy more stuff, much of which is transient and useless, we talk about dispensing with the physical existence of something that can actually become more meaningful over time.
I really can’t condone the notion (rhetorical or not) of book burning. Even though we might gain some extra room in our apartments and houses, I think we’d be losing a whole lot more in the long run.
How about you? Do you think “real” books will someday become extinct? Do you think that would be a loss if they did?