I found myself in the position of trying to explain ebook readers to a relative recently.
After I ran down the lists of pros and cons — mostly pros at that point — from the relatively low price for books to the mammoth amount of memory available to the portability, my listener was still skeptical.
“I don’t think I’d like that,” she said. “It just doesn’t seem the same as sitting down with a new book.”
Given that I’ve been coveting a Kindle for a while now, that made me think.
Now, I love gadgets. I don’t own many of them ... there’s that whole “cost” issue ... but I like them. The sheer convenience of downloading a new book in seconds is attractive, and the “cool” factor is definitely there.
But would I like it nearly as much as a good, old-fashioned paper book?
I have a lot of books, from beat-up old paperbacks to first-edition hardcovers to one prized leather-bound signed copy.
I recently fished out a dog-eared copy of a book I bought with my birthday money at the ripe old age of 13. The protagonist in that book, the first of a series, was also 13. I look at the cover, at the yellowed pages and rounded corners, and remember what it felt like to be curled up under the covers with a flashlight, finding out what happened next.
My copy of Anne McCaffrey’s “The White Dragon” is almost missing its cover. It’s quite literally hanging by a thread or two. I won’t buy a new one. That one has too many memories, and besides, I don’t like the cover art on the new editions.
Not to mention, I can look at the covers of the volumes in my collection and remember where they’ve been with me.
I know the books I took on my honeymoon. (Yes, really.) I know the books I had at the hospital while my sons were born.
I know the book I tried, unsuccessfully, to read during the long hours of my oldest son’s heart surgery when he was five months old. (In fact, I’ve never been able to feel quite good about that book again, which I’ll admit is quite unfair. The tension just comes back.)
I just started a new tome by one of my favorite authors, Canadian Guy Gavriel Kay. He only has a new book released once every five years or so, and I’ve been saving this one as a treat. It’s a hardcover first edition, all thick cover and heavy paper, and it’s beautiful. (The story’s pretty good, too.)
Would it be the same if I hadn’t made the trek to the store to buy it, weighed it in my hands before opening the cover, smelled the scent of new paper.
No, I don’t think it would be. And I don’t think I’m ready to do away with that experience — nor with the bookcases full of volumes in my home.
I still think ebook readers are kind of neat. Maybe some day, I’ll have one. But if that day comes, it’ll be solely for portability’s sake, in addition to the paper edition rather than instead of it.
I love my books too much.
Jill Keppeler is a page designer and columnist for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.