Wednesday, January 25, 2012

B is for Books

I love books, and always have. I love having them around, looking at them and sometimes even reading them. Mostly, I like having them around.

I come by this naturally: My mother was a book lover, too. My father, on the other hand, could easily throw books away. My mother and I thought that was sacrilege.

Over the years, I built up a pretty good library—twice. First, when I was living in the US and helped by inheriting books from my parents, then again in New Zealand, where I helped add to the library Nigel already had—but with very few from my US library, most of which I left behind.

I used to say that I drew power from having books around, until I realised that sounded a bit quasi-spiritual, which wasn’t at all what I meant. Instead, I meant that books energise me. When I see all my books in front of me, I think of all the ideas and words within them and become inspired to keep searching for a few of my own.

But things are very different now. I still love having a library of books, but having packed and moved them many, many times now, I can definitely see the attraction of a small library. That’s going far too far for me, though.

Instead, my biggest shift in attitude has been nurtured by the Internet and all things computer. It began when I started downloading free “plain vanilla” texts of classic public domain books from Project Gutenberg. It was a great thing, I thought, but frankly a little hard to read on a computer screen. So, graphics person I am, I tried turning a couple into real books and found it was much harder than I’d imagined.

And so it stayed for many years until the Kindle was introduced. At the time, I thought it was too expensive and failed the “bathtub test”: Drop a book in a bathtub, and you’re out around $40; drop a Kindle, and at the time it was many times that price.

Nevertheless, in July of 2010, I downloaded my first Kindle edition of a book, which I read on my iPod Touch. I found it easier to read Kindle editions once I had a iPad, but the darn thing was heavy. Then, Nigel gave me a Kindle for my birthday, and so far I love it.

It turns out, I’m in good company. Yesterday, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project released a report that found that over the holidays there was a huge surge in the percentage of Americans who have a tablet computer (like an iPad or similar) or an e-reader (like a Kindle, Nook, etc.): “The share of adults who own either device [nearly doubled], from 10% to 19%.” The overall percentages are still relatively low, but the rate of increase is impressive.

There are many things about them that are good, and they have many features that make them a great way to read books (chief among the benefits, in my opinion, is that readers can carry suitcases of books on the one device, which makes packing for trips much easier and with far less back strain).

Still, e-readers and tablet computers are not books. Books to me a special thing, far more special than merely a page displaying on an electronic device. I like having them around, after all. Turns out, I like having e-readers around, too.

Are you a book person? If so, is it ink-on-paper-only, electronic only or both?

The image at the top of this post is a Creative Commons licensed photo, “Old book bindings at Merton College Library” (25 August 2005), by Tom Murphy VII. It is available for download through Wikimedia Commons.


Gemma Wiseman said...

Books have a special scent and spirit that can never be found on a Kindle screen! A Kindle is useful in our urge for economy but it loses a little of the "feel" for the word maker! Lovely, interesting thoughts in this post!

EG Wow said...

I enjoyed reading this. I read both ways: real books and on a Nook. Personally, I like both ways!

Leslie: said...

I have thus far avoided the idea of purchasing an e-book device as I love the feel of a book in my hand and physically turning the pages. However, I do see the advantage of having one device with lots of books in it to use while travelling. Maybe one day I will give in and get one, but then I also think what will I miss if I'm reading while travelling? Lots to consider...

abcw team

mrsnesbitt said...

This is very interesting - we had a book case each at one time - infact this time last year - A large section of mine was devoted to penguin classics (modern) you know, the orange ones. I had studied some at college - then whenever I went into a charity shop I would "rescue" the same ones........am having a sort out now........and many are going back to the charity shops...does this make sense?

ABC Team

Emille said...

Love books -have two book shelves to the ceiling and a whole bedroom wall covered with books, but a Kindle -no, because I don't like screens:)

Roger Owen Green said...

My wife received a Kindle for her birthday last July; it's still in the box.

That said, I can see the value of the e-books, though I'll never love one like I do certain physical books in my collection.

WV: storee - a Kiwi tale


chubskulit said...

I prefer the physical book coz you don't have to worry about getting a virus.

Rose, ABC Wednesday Team

helenmac said...

Arthur, you perfectly outlined my book dilemma: I love them, I have so many of them, I can't throw them away but I willing give them away however, .... the takers are few and far between. I have made my peace with ebooks and know that whoever clears out my home when I am gone will be very grateful!

ABC Wednesday Team

amerinz's sis said...

I prefer real books because I like to add notes in the margins. I admit that I don't like dusting them though. I don't like reading on screens at all and only do so if it's something brief. While both real books and electronic versions are portable, a real book doesn't have to be "powered up". You don't need batteries or electricity to read a real book.

R.J. Dennis said...

Fantastic post, Arthur! I, too, have a huge physical library, which right now (and holding) contains over 800 books. I only have 2 bookcases, so I have books in boxes, on top of dressers, in stacks pretty much all over the place. Having them around energize me, too. Sadly, though, I am going to have to put many of them into storage soon, along with most of my stuff.

I also have an ever-increasing audiobook collection (around 400 right now) and e-book collection of around 300 as well. Where I used to work at, we were allowed to wear headphones, so I would listen to audiobooks while I processed books going to school libraries. I only got into ebooks last year. Our local Borders store closed down and the closest bookstore now is about 45 minutes away.

I wanted and bought an iPad, because I wanted an ereader that is also a multi-function device. At the time, I couldn't see the point in having a dedicated ereader that could do nothing else. However, with the iPad's weight, it becomes hard to read for long periods of time. I only use the Kindle app to read. There are so many amazing self-published ebooks and writers that can be found only on Amazon. That said, I want to get a Kindle (either regular or Touch, not Fire!) soon. They are lightweight and easier on the eyes than an iPad. Plus, their size at least reminds me of that of a physical book.

I miss physical books, though. I miss going into a bookstore, perusing the shelves, chatting with the workers and customers about books, and leaving with a big bag of new books. Nothing will ever compare to that magical experience.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Thanks to everyone who commented on this! So many good points were raised that I'm going to do a follow-up post—as soon as I can get some time, that is! I'll post a link here in the comments when I do.