Let’s Hear it For Old Fashioned Books
As most of you know, I’ve been a devoted Kindle fan since soon after it came out, and I’ve waxed poetic about my love for it several times here on the blog. And ever since iPad came out, I’ve been sorely tested in my attempts to avoid coveting. It looks really cool.
Every time I write about e-books and the various devices for reading them, I get lots of comments from people who swear they’ll never go electronic. They go on and on about the smell, the feel, the experience of a book that an e-book just can’t replicate.
And as much as I hate to say it… I agree with you.
E-books definitely have their place, and you can’t beat them for travel and especially for reading manuscripts. I’m still in love with my Kindle! But there is nothing… nothing… better than the thrill of a new book in your hands. Whether it’s something you’ve been wanting to read… or whether it’s a hot-off-the-press copy of your own book (or if you’re an agent, your client’s book), you just can’t beat it.
I love a beautifully designed book cover. I love running my hands over the surface, and feeling the heft of the book, and flipping through the pages looking at all those words. I love looking at the books lining my shelves and stacked in every possible corner of my house.
I think there are a lot of people who feel this way. That doesn’t mean they’re all anti-electronics. I’m certainly not! But I think it means we are entering (to quote my friend Shannon) “a both/and world.”
We’re not going strictly digital anytime soon. I think we’ll be picking and choosing which kinds of books we want to purchase in which format. (Just like I buy most of my music on iTunes but still buy at least a few CDS a year.) There is going to be a long period of time when we get to choose whether we want a printed book or a digital one.
And I’m so glad for that.
What do you think? Am I right?
Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent
Wicked blog, I’ve been reading it all week
>Nishant, I don't appreciate being ripped off–I posted that earlier and would rather you not take credit for my words. If you're truly a writer, why don't you come up with your own ideas–or at least give me credit for my words?
>Love hardbacks and hope to get my first novel published one day soon. Q: How can you do book signings on a Kindle? I'm trying to imagine my future cover and stacks of books to be signed..I can still dream!
work at home in india
>Wow, books and e-readers. I'm eager for the day when I have one in each hand.
>I just read my first kindle book. I needed to read it for book club and didn't have time to go to the bookstore. So I downloaded the free kindle ap on my iphone and then bought the book.
It was better then I thought it would be, but missing some of the normal coziness of reading a book.
>It has been said in other comments and I have to agree, my Kindle is a dream when I travel. In a time when each bag is weighted and the over-fees are obscene, my Kindle lets me feed my three book a week habit with something small enough to fit in my purse.
>I don't have an e-reader yet. I definitely wouldn't turn one down if someone wanted to give me one. I love the idea of being able to have 10 books in my purse all the time.
However, I just finished an online course with an e-text and I hated it! There were so many times I wished I could flip through to find the place I wanted or mark something I wanted to be able to find later.
And somehow, I just can't imagine reading to my children from a computer screen.
This is like asking if we are going to give up hardcover books for paperbacks.
>I don't own an e-reader, but that's not saying I won't someday. But for right now, I can't imagine "cuddling up" with one. After spending hours staring at a computer screen, the last thing I want to do for relaxation is read an e-book. JMO
>I don't have a Kindle but have recently started submitting to the allure of electronic reading on my new netbook. Blogged about why I like it: http://bit.ly/RSAGy (Mar 9 entry).
>In looking at my royalty statement, it seems the printed book "wins" . . . so, that's nice to see; however, I can see the appeal of e-books on ipads and kindles…easy to slip in a purse or briefcase and take on a plane or business trip.
I sometimes think I want one, just to see what it's like, to be able to take along several books or other printed material on trips without having a bulging 'brief case' or purse or suitcase, but I haven't yet taken the plunge, as they are still a bit pricey for me to consider.
>I agree, Rachelle, that there is no need to panic. When tv came along they thought radio and movie theatres would die but all three are still here. I like print books but listen to more on tape than I read due to time restrictions. They even said combat ground troops would never be used again in wars due to modern missiles, robots etc. but (God help us!)men are still fighting on foot.
I guess the one thing which has vanished, from my life anyway, is handwritten correspondence, which I could keep forever. Now my mailbox contains only bills.
>Put a book in my hands anytime and I'll read it. I don't like the cold feel of metal and plastic to be the vessel for my imagination. Thank you very much…
>I love the feel of the book, but I am a fan of the toys too! I love the idea of a world where ebooks and their printed versions can exist side by side. There are some books that you just have to wrap your hands around.
The education world is definitely starting to put a toe in the water, weighing in on ebooks and buying Kindles…at least a few for a start. I do think this could become 'the thing' in the future with budgets and backpacks at the heart of it all. We'll see.
>I have absolutely nothing against ebooks, but I'll probably stick with hardcopy as long as possible. I mean, how else will I flick the pages and drive my distracting children and husband from a room so I can actually read?
>THANK YOU for sending A Million Miles in time for my trip this weekend! I started it before I headed home and couldn't put it down. Marked it up like CRAZY and didn't even care that I had an hour delay in Cleveland this morning, because I was so engrossed in it. The woman sitting beside me in the airport had a Kindle, but I didn't even feel jealous. Totally agree with the both/and.
>I guess I'm in the minority; I don't tend to get nostalgic over books – I do over their content, or the memory of how they affected me. But not the actual book itself. Which makes sense, the physical universe is something I notice occasionally, and, often, with some form of irritation. 🙂
In many ways, the most important thing for me about a book is getting it fast. I want to read it now! 🙂 So, automatic download sounds like heaven to me.
But I'm not the only one affected, and reading these posts, I certainly see there is a real attachment to books, so I can see how there would be room for both. 🙂
>I'm a traditionalist. If I could find a perfume that smelled like a just-opened book, I'd dab it behind my ears, on pulse points, and under my nose every day. I love the feel of the cover, the texture of the paper, the heft of it in my hand, and the exercise of turning one thrilling page after the other. Sometimes it borders on aerobic.
HOWEVER, I was an English major in college–a commuting English major, at that, which meant I had to carry three or four enormous Norton anthologies, a Hodges' Harbrace, a notebook, and a dictionary or thesaurus all day long, trudging up and down three or four long flights of stairs several times throughout the day. If someone had said then, "You can have the text of all those books on this wee machine," I would have turned cartwheels at the chance (though I still would have bought used copies of the traditional books to have in my library).
>I'll always be a hardcopy kind of guy. Having spent a few thousand dollars over the years on books printed by http://www.foliosociety.com/ I don't think I'll ever be able to completely move on into the digital world.
"$300 for a leather bound Paradise Lost with all of the William Blake illustrations? Hell yes!"
>I think there's plenty of room for both: If a Kindle encourages younger people to read, that's great. I welcome both avenues for publication and reading.
But please let's not "write off" real books just yet! Buying a book is such a personal choice: Can you imagine giving a downloaded book as a gift? Or asking an author for a signed copy of their book on a Kindle?
>I prefer real books. How they feel in my hands, the new book smell…books are one of my true loves.
>Having an interest in all things medieval, I recently acquired "The Medieval World" published by National Geographic, and "Medieval Dress and Fashion" written by Margaret Scott and published by the British Library. These are beautiful books to look at, to feel and to turn the pages. One can never say "never" but at least for the moment electronic readers cannot replace books of that kind. The internet to some extent is replacing the newspaper, and I can see electronic readers replacing throw-away books and wanabe's manuscripts, but not the kinds of books you want to keep and look at again and again
>One big plus of e-readers (for me) is that they probably allow you to read in the dark.
But still there's nothing like a real book.
>I totally agree that it's not an either/or thing with electronic vs. hard-copy books. There's a place for both, and despite my own eagerness to splurge on an e-reader, I don't expect it to take the place of hard-copy books in my life.
>I love old books. Especially hard covers. Their edges showing the wear of years on a shelf and the touch of fingers. The imperfections of old printing methods. How illustrations speak of the age from which the book is published.
Perhaps, as the digital media age, the same characteristics will develop.
>I haven't tried anything electronic to read but would LOVE to should I have the opportunity.
What is special about a physical book is that I can trust it.
There's no worry about malfunction, or it being pulled off my night table due to some contract squabble.
>I love my Kindle and no longer read print books unless I absolutely have to. I read more and faster on my Kindle. As far as the "feel" or cover design, I don't miss it. I get caught up in the information/learning in a nonfiction book or the story in a fiction book. If either of those are missing, a nice cover or the feel of paper won't make up for the lack of good content.
I don't think printed books are going away, but for me they are a thing of the past. Bring on digital books!
>The traditionalist in me cringes at the popularity of a Kindle… but when I hold one I totally want to buy one! The accessibility of it makes me want to get it more than anything. It's so easy to carry this little thing around as opposed to the variety of sized books that I have. I don't think I'm willing to pay that much for an e-reader yet though, not for myself. I'm going to see if my husband wants one, though. He's deploying later this year and I think an e-reader would be much easier to have there than lugging around 7 Harry Potter books!
>You know what they say about hindsight, and right now it's one luxury we don't have.
I am amazed at the number of blog posts that seek to answer the print v. digital question and they all rely upon anecdotal evidence to support claims that print will continue to have a shelf life (pub intended), or that digital will take over the world.
The truth is…only time will tell.
>I think "both/and world" says it perfectly. Paper books aren't going the way of the dodo anytime soon, but e-books seem to be here to stay as well.
>Hey there! I'm new to this blog, but so appreciate the spirit of your posts and your straightforward nature.
I too am a huge book lover. They're stacked floor to ceiling in the toy room (ironic?), under tables, and on desks. As frenetic as I am about the house being clean, I'll put up with a clutter of books anywhere and smile at them. I have found myself interested in the Kindle as well, though.
I'm doing my darndest to get published and along the way I've run into a handful of authors who are published with an e-publisher. The idea opens up a whole new world to consideration and I find myself curious.
I do hate the concept of "either/or" and will happily embrace your friend's "both/and" proposal!
I do feel the same way too. The good thing about a printed book is you can lay down in whatever position and read your favorite book which is not always possible with the digital one. More over, with the printed book…someone else is bound to seeit and want to read it unlike one which is tucked up in someone's computer.
>Great post! I wrote a column about this very subject back in September. Here's a link to it, "The epic loss of tangible trilogies and paper cuts." My opinion remains unchanged: http://www.timessentinel.com/opinion/local_story_266121519.html?keyword=topstory
>I definitely want to think you're right! I like the both/and way of thinking.
I go back and forth. I'll not touch my Kindle for weeks, and then I'll read nothing if it's not electronic.
I saw a commercial for the iPad for the first time yesterday. I thought it neat, too, despite the flack I've heard people give over it.
>Like you, I love my Kindle for travel. But I also love the real deal books when I am home.
>I can certainly see the value of a ebook reader, but like so many others, I like the feel of the real book in my hands. I also collect signed copies and it's very hard for an author to sign a kindle 🙂
>Kindle is great for traveling and easier on the eyes for reading but for me there is nothing like the thrill of opening a book up for the first time to read my way through another adventure.
>Oh, and I AM planning to give in and purchase an iPad, on which I will definitely try out the whole digital-book-thing. I'm interested to see whether I'll love it or hate it…
>I agree completely with your entry (in fact, I blogged about it a few weeks ago too, lol – We're definitely in agreement, here!) – http://writerscorner-traci.blogspot.com/2009/12/kindles-hmm.html
I also think you're right, about the digital format not entirely taking over the old-fashioned format. Love the analogy of CD's and iTunes. I do that, too – purchase several individual songs, but still go back to CD's. A mixture of both is probably realistic, for the Kindle/"real" books, too. Great entry!
>I have so many books downloaded on my Kindle I don't even know what they are. Out of sight, out of mind. Still love it though.
>I like the idea of choice. Living in a small town without a bookstore, I like the idea of instant gratification that comes with an e-reader. But book covers and paper pages are also appealing. I want both, thanks.
>I think you are and I am so glad!
In a few years, I'm all about the Ipad. Just waiting for it to get tricked out, a longer battery life, and much cheaper. :0)
>As a writer, I expect to market eBooks as well has hardcover & paperback. As a reader, the only advantage of eBooks is the ability to avoid accumulating more dead trees to put into storage. My walls already have the extra insulation bookshelves provide, so the overflow ends up in boxes through which I rummage every six months or so.
Given that the younger generations have electronics from the cradle (does anyone use a cradle any more?), I think they will either read eBooks or not read at all. It therefore behooves us literary folks to get on board with these newfangled gadgets.
>The only thing that I could argue as a counterpoint is this:
Iconic album covers of the 60s, 70s and most of the 80s were beloved things, sometimes elaborate, multi-part, tangible creations that surpassed the sounds that came from the vinyl. Cutting edge bands pushed the art and design of both album covers, and at times even the artwork on the traditionally black records themselves.
They were adored.
Today they are nostalgia pieces, collector items.
The difference, of course, is demonstrated by Beth above: books require no electricity – and the full experience of an album quite obviously requires that.
Printed books have survived a century of digital and audio innovation of the story – from radio dramatizations through microfische to personal readers, whereas the tangible album is merely an offshoot of popular music. The printed book appears to be the trunk of its own industry, and its digital formats, whether audio or electronic print, seem to be its branches.
>Absolutely agree that there is nothing like the feel of a physical book. And it requires no batteries. If the infrastructure as we know it folded and we were only able to live like the Amish, my shelves of books would still work.
>I covet thy Kindle! I'll be getting one soon.
I love books and won't give them up, but I want the Kindle for sitting in the car waiting on the kids, sitting and waiting at appointments and for travelling. I didn't know that I'd have to turn it off during takeoff and landing, but I can adjust. I always finish my book with a time to spare when sitting in an airport and have to run to the bookstore, so I'm seeing the benefits of being able to just download a new book.
>Rachelle: I couldn't agree with you more! I bought the BN Nook at Christmas and I love, love, love it! I travel quite frequently and there's nothing so freeing as just downloading a new book, magazine, newspaper for the flight! wahoo! I also attend Bible Study Fellowship, so I have my NIV Bible downloaded, and I can still do my lesson on the plane, or from wherever I am. No bag fees for lots of books in my suitcase!
But, there are lots of reasons I love to hold a book…and write in the margins! (However, I can highlight and make notes on my NOOK too!) I AM FREE to choose whichever way I want to roll! 😉
>I've read books on my Kindle at the beach and out by the pool. Works great in a ziploc bag.
But on a plane, I have to bring something else to read besides my Kindle – a magazine or a book – because they won't let you have the Kindle turned on during takeoff and landing! I can't bear those few minutes of nothing to read.
>I don't have an electronic reader, and don't see the need for one, myself. I can see how helpful it would be for an agent / editor, though, with all those manuscripts!
I have downloaded books to my phone, though. Which is kind of funny – I read "Pride and Prejudice" on a 2.25" x 2.25" screen! The upside was I could read any time, anywhere, and with the back light could read in bed when hubby was sleeping. Yes, he did mock me. When awake.
Currently I'm reading Fidel Castro's autobiography, one tiny page at a time, waiting to pick up kids, etc. But I consider that more reading for research than for pleasure.
In summary, tho' I appreciate the value people place on their e-readers, I think fundamentally I'm held back by 1) money 2) not wanting to betray books: I have Pride & Prejudice in hard copy too. But if I purchase, read & enjoy a book electronically, it won't be the same as seeing its spine on my shelf.
>I love both. My early anniversary present is the Sony eReader and I'm loving it.
However, I still love buying paper books for my 8 year-old daughter. The thrill of seeing her with a book in her hands and enjoying the glossy and papery feel. Walking into a book store is heaven. However, my space is getting more and more limited.
Also, don't think I'll bring the eReader to the beach or the bath.
For me, it's also just about my love of the written word and the stories everyone imagines.
Books = my favourite topic
>And ever since iPad came out, I've been sorely tested in my attempts to avoid coveting. It looks really cool.
I'm definitely with you on that. Steve Jobs understands human nature better than anyone else in the business. Humans love beauty and will endure a lot for the sake of it. I think that's one reason Apple has so much customer loyalty.
I said I'd never spend money on a Mac, that is, until I played around with one at Best Buy. I loved it so much I bought it on the spot. Of course, I can't really do anything with it that I couldn't do on a much cheaper Windows machine, but OS-X sure is pretty! 🙂
>I love the idea of reading electronically and when given the choice I typically my iPhone Bible rather than the printed version. But I also have The Brothers Karamozov on my iPhone, but I chose to read the printed version instead.
It's hard to say. I guess I'm with you. I think if electronic reading will supplement/complement books rather than replacing them altogether.
But I will say (as I've said before) the dedicated e-Reader is a passing fancy. no need to buy extra hardware when the hardware we already have (phones/laptops) can do the same thing.
>I don't particularly have a problem with eReaders, but I don't plan on getting one any time soon. I don't have a terrible amount of disposable income, and what I do have is primarily spent on baseball and books. Too put out the money to buy an eReader (which I'd likely only use when I was traveling) would be that much less I could use towards the things that really matter to me.
As far as what other people choose, I say to each his/her own. The important thing is that people continue to READ.
>I agree… I love using my e-reader at the gym because it's portable and I can read an 800-page book on a device the size of a Pop Tart. But I prefer reading printed books. Books can be beautful objects–the cover, feel of paper, etc. This can't be duplicated on an e-reader. I like passing along books I've read to friends and family, or donating them to the library or book sales.
I love my Kindle, but I also love going to the bookstore and spending hours browsing through the books. I've bought more than one book solely for the feel of the paper. Luckily, the books were good. Still, there's something about the feel of the book in my hand, the texture of the paper, and the smell of the book that transports me to someplace else. So, while I love my Kindle, there are times when I'll just curl up with a 'real' book and enjoy the weight, the heft of the book, the touch of the papers beneath my fingers, and . . .
>I like the idea of an eReader, but I question the practicality for someone as active as I am. I don't think eReaders are the durable type of thing yet. I also don't know that I'm ready for an eReader because I often just go walk the shelves of book stores and pick something that catches my eye. I wouldn't be so inclined to do that if I had an eReader. I have done that with music, so I'm hesitant to follow that path. Once upon a time I did sound for bands I knew because I went to their shows – and I don't anymore. Some day, when the eReaders are more sturdy and probably cheaper I'll get one, but for now I'll make do with my too-many books. Doesn't mean I wouldn't accept an eReader if someone gave it to me though!! 😀
>No e-reader for me right now for a couple reasons. First, the cost is prohibitive. The books are not that much cheaper and even though I would save money by not needing to buy bookshelves, I'd have to buy a HUGE amount of books to make it pay off. Plus you cannot loan those books out. The ladies at church swap books all the time and I'd hate for that to stop.
>I don’t see paper books going away anything soon, but even if e-book readers catch on, it could be like vinyl records. Just when we thought they were dead, they came back. I like Amy’s point about signing her Kindle. Aside from book collectors, I think the reason most of us want books signed is so we can say we had that personal connection with the author. A signature on anything will do. While we may not want to cover our reading devices with autographs, that won’t keep us from getting something else signed. I have a blue elephant shaped stress ball at home that is signed by a politician. But if we really want signed copies of books, POD technology is at a high enough level that we can print off copies of electronic books as needed for the author to sign.
>We also need to consider that while a lot of older people sit in the middle or strongly resist ereaders, the next generation is being raised on digital reading. I already know many kids who own a Kindle and hate paper altogether. So while many boo-hoo the ereaders, in my opinion the change is inevitable. Keep the paper books as long as you can get your hands on them if you want, but embrace what the change means for you as a writer. Resistance is pointless.
>You are right. And if on the off chance you are not right, I will miss dog-eared pages, and a pen in hand while I read. The letting go will be oh so hard for me.
>I'm a new Kindle user and what I love is that I'm trying new authors and genres because I can download a sample for free. I think only once so far I have NOT purchased the whole book. I read more and buy more with the Kindle.
I will always buy "real" books though, especially by authors I love or know. I am thinking about going to a reading in May – an author I adore will be near me – and I actually thought that if I took a "Sharpie" she could sign my Kindle!
>I totally agree! I haven't gone electronic yet, will probably get one someday, but just don't have a need at the moment. And for ME, it will never replace books. Just be in addition to.
And I even think that books will still be much more prevalent vs. CD's because of the "smell/feel" factor. Very few people are emotionally attached to a CD. I've never heard anyone say that they just want to have one in their hand and smell it:-)
>The kindle and ipad look cool. And I can see why commuters and professionals are in love with it. And I can see both books and ereaders existing in peace together.
>I agree 100%.
While visiting my son at college a month ago, we went into a small bookstore near his campus. The scent of paper hit me in the face like a wall of humidity. I stood in the doorway and breathed deeply. I told my son I'd love a candle called Paper & Ink. LOL
However, when I travel, especially fly, I like to condense what I take, so e-readers work better for me. Occasionally I do take one book in my carry-on.
>I have yet to buy an e-reader, and I think you're right. Both print and electronic books are here to stay – giving us the option to pick and choose!
>I hope you're right, because I have such a desire to hold my own book in my hands someday!
>I think you're right, and boy can I relate to looking at my books and bookshelves! LOL Just posted a comment on Seekerville about my new bookshelf and how good it feels to go in there and see all my favorite stories lines up, so beautiful and soft, each with their own feel and experience. *happy, weirdly-obsessed sigh*
>I long for a Kindle, but I agree: there's nothing quite like running your fingers over a beautiful book cover!
>I think you're right and i think if you're reading something that isn't a novel – digital is fine but for books there is nothing equal to it. I sometimes in a bookstore get put of by the size of a book but we won't really see the size of a book in a digital store.
>I don't believe hard copy books are going anywhere anytime soon. There seem to be too many of us sentimental people who will continue to buy and collect books.
I'll admit, one good arguement is that buying an e-version of a book is more sustainable… that may be one reason why I pick up an ipad sometime in to the not too distant future.
>Up until a year ago I was one that thought I would much prefer to read on a page than a device. If I had papers to read for uni, I'd download and print. If I did read online for more than an hour I'd get sore eyes or a headache. But I think I've adjusted and now I PREFER Kindle books for my PC and iPhone (although truthfully the iPhone is a little small) I don't have a Kindle device because I'm in Australia and would like to see one, plus I think I'm going to go with the iPad when it comes out, just to read my books.
I have crates and crates of books in my shed, piles on my shelves and would happily trade them all for electronic files. I know, I would shake my head at me too a while ago, but now…. 🙂
>I love to read "real books" but living an hour and a half from the closest book store makes it difficult. I have the kindle app for my iphone so that in between trips I can still enjoy a good book.
>I'm going to resist as much as I can! I love the feel and smell of books.
Not only that but because I work with a lot of teens with reading and their novels for major assignments – I'm a huge fan of making notes in the margins and adding sticky notes to important pages. It makes for quick and easy access. We can highlight important quotes and get right into text (it helps me to teach them that every word is there for a reason).
Can't see me doing this with an e-reader 😉
>I have a sony pocket reader and as much as I absoultely love it for it's portability, you are right, there will always be the lure of a good cover and the feel of a book.
The ereader is a different way of reading for me (and it is great for loading my WIPs and reading them back rather than printing it all out or reading from my laptop which is not so portable) but it will never replace the book. It is just a different way, like the CD and MP3 I suppose. x
>Hooray Rachelle! Love hardbacks and hope to get my first novel published one day soon. Q: How can you do book signings on a Kindle? I'm trying to imagine my future cover and stacks of books to be signed..I can still dream!
>i bought one for my sister in law, who is about to become a mother for the third time. she says this is the perfect gift for breast feeding. Now she will be able to change the page with the touch of a free finger and not disrupt the baby!
>I think change is hard – always. And, it takes time.
I love books and will definitely end up getting an electronic reader – maybe when the kids are out of college or the price comes down but, until then, I love the feel of a book in my hands and – yes – I even enjoy seeing my TBR piling up 😉