A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
A Facebook friend’s status got me thinking about eBooks the other day. At first I was generally annoyed because my creativity has apparently degraded to the point where I have to draw inspiration from people’s Facebook status. I got over that quickly because if I learned one thing over the past year of blogging, it’s that you have to take it where you can get it sometimes. So I refocused on the preliminary thought. eBooks. I dislike eBooks, but why? I never really thought about it before. First to mind was that I like real books. But that is a very shallow reason. If liking real books is the only reason I dislike eBooks, it’s like saying I dislike Star Wars because I like Star Trek, which is not the case. So what then? Further down the same runaway train of thought I guess I fear that eBooks will someday lead to the end of paper books. I suppose this is a valid suggestion.
It’s also strange to point out that in every other facet of my media consumption, I prefer digital copy. I’d go so far to say I hate discs. Music, movie and game discs are unnecessary clutter in my already crap cluttered living space. I see no reason, with present technology, why I need to have a hard copy of every movie, song and game I incorporate into my entertainment routine. Some may say that digital storage without hard copy is a risk. I guess so, although many places provide cloud storage these days and in the event of a major disaster, the last thing I’m worried about is my movie collection. There is no reason to cry about my cracked Resident Evil disc when there are zombies walking down the street for example. So why are eBooks different? For one, I can read a book without electricity. Kindles need to charge, CD’s require a CD player, same for disc movies and video games require a computer or console. A television is also required for both movies and games. I can pick up a book, no matter what is going on, and read it.
I do see the convenience of eBooks. It’s perfectly reasonable to see why someone who travels would want a Kindle or iPad. Maybe I just want to see some balance? Right now there are two teams (if I may use horrible, fascist Twilight terminology) you are either team Paper Book or team eBook. These two groups dislike one another. Paper book fans see themselves as the old sages, here to protect us from ourselves and preserve our history. They believe eBook reader to be smelly, hairy, hippies. eBookers see themselves as cutting edge futurists, ushering in a new age of human advancement. They liken Paper Bookers to geriatric codgers who hate change, youth and solid foods. Is either group wrong or right to think this way? Do they think this way or am I just full of crap? What about this? Why can’t publishing companies put a code in their books that provides a free download of the book in digital format for whatever eReader you prefer? This way I can have my paper, but also have the convenience of digital for travel. That idea probably presents more problems than solutions.
So why do I dislike eBooks? I think it’s a complicated combination of all the above factors. Let me start with the soul. Yes, soul. That book I just finished has a soul. What if page 142 was funny or sad or thought provoking so I dog eared it for later? Maybe the inside cover has an inscription from who ever gave me the book, or even the author who wrote it. I have several books with cracked binding because I’ve gone back to read them again and again. A good book has more of a soul than an eReader ever will. Piles of books do not bother me, they make me happy. The thought that my children may never go to a library depresses me. That’s why I plan to have my own library room if/when I have the finances to see it done. While CDs and DVDs and Blu-rays and games gather dust and take up space, my books become decorations on the shelves; cherished as much as the countless stuffed frogs The Wife has gathered over the years or the Christmas Nativity set or the Lego Mini figs. I’ve never felt this way about the DVD copy of The Matrix on the shelf that I’ve watched maybe twice.
Many eBook readers are also eBook pushers. They won’t be happy until everyone reads only via eReader. If you like your eReader, cool, good for you. Don’t try to convert me. If I see a good reason to start using eBooks, I’ll ask your opinion. Until that time, lay off. Some of you make me intentionally dislike eBooks, not because I loathe the books themselves, but you as heralds of them. It’s like certain sports teams, I don’t dislike the institution nearly as much as the annoying fans who try to convince you their team is the best no matter what. There is a place in this world for both books and eBooks. My fear, and ultimately my core reason for aversion to eBooks is the very real possibility that eBooks will lead to the downfall of print books.
First published in January 2012 on Daniel’s blog DUMP.
(Photo credit: Krypto on Flickr – reproduced under a Creative Commons licence.)