Wednesday, January 25, 2012
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.