The abomination that is the Kindle!

I have this playful argument with my techno-geek boyfriend all the time. He points out all of the obvious benefits to electronic books. They’re more compact and portable. That’s true. Sometimes it is difficult to fit a large hard cover in my pocket book. You can carry several books with you at once. Yes, also true. Sometimes I’m reading a few things at once, or if I’m just about to finish a book, I like to have another one on hand. I understand all of those things. So why are e-readers an abomination? Because they don’t smell!

It’s not just the smell. It’s the feel of the pages through your fingers and the creases in the binding that tell you how many times the book has been opened. For book lovers, there is a connection between you and your book. I have books from childhood that are so well-loved they are falling apart. There is a specialness to them that a Kindle or Nook just cannot replicate. I look at my mom’s copy of The Firm and see her in my mind reading on the couch. I hold the Mickey Mouse series she bought from the supermarket over the course of a couple of months and still feel her holding me on her lap and reading to me. I flip through my high school copy of The Stranger or 1984 and still feel what I felt when I first read them. I look at the worn out cover of Your Pregnancy Week by Week and am brought back to every new little twitch and emotion that came with my pregnancy. My books are real to me.

I love second-hand book stores. I walk through the aisles and imagine who all of these books belonged to. Who owned the Incarnations of Immortality series that bought? Did they read them when they were first released? Did they wait in anticipation for each new edition, while I sat and read them all one after the other? It adds to the fantasy of the story itself.

I was browsing the NY Times on my mobile yesterday and was shown yet another downside to electronic reading. This article on the technology age’s loss of marginalia, the reader’s notes in the margins of books, gave me something else to think about. They mention a book in Chicago’s Newberry Library, a seemingly insignificant book on “making a profit in publishing”. Why is the book so special? Because Mark Twain wrote in the margins and argued with the author! How fascinating is that? The article got me thinking about a 1927 copy of The Works of Edgar Allen Poe that I have sitting on my bookshelf. I started flipping through its bible-like pages. There wasn’t much other than evidence of old dog ears, but in the introduction I found a few X’s marked on the words and sometimes in the margin next to a whole paragraph. Upon further reading, I noticed each X seemed to mark a typo or grammatical error. This told me two things about the previous owner. One, like me, he/she was probably annoyed by errors in literature and liked to point them out. And two, he/she actually took the time to read the introduction. In fact, by the creases of old dog ears it seems this book was read cover to cover.

Am I a book nerd? Yes, and I’m proud of that. Do I hold anything against the techno-geeks? Not at all. I will go out and buy my boyfriend a Kindle or a Nook because he seems so desperately to want one. However, I will never own one. I just can’t bring myself to do it. I will lug around my heavy hard covers and continue to carry oversized tote bags instead of a pocket book so that I can hold several books at once. I will still spend hours in book stores, both Barnes and Nobles and the used Book the store on 2nd and Market and whatever other ones I happen to pass by. I will enjoy the look, the feel, and the smell of real books no matter what new gadget technology comes up with!


8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Summer Huggins on February 22, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Even with my new crush on my Kindle, I wouldn’t trade my collection of used-bookstore etiquette books for anything! There are great notes in the margins, torn and yellowed pages, and illustrations that make me laugh. And I love flipping open the front cover to see 1952, 1912 and even 1892 printed inside.

    Can’t we have the best of both worlds?! 😉


    • Absolutely! I certainly don’t discount all of the benefits to e-readers, especially the ability to immediately purchase books from where ever you are (that’s probably the only thing that could one day change my mind about owning one). But I am still going to make snide remarks whenever I see my boyfriend read electronically and when we pass the Kindle stand in the bookstore . . . Because, well, it’s fun! 🙂


  2. I believe we can have the best of both worlds… The slick new eBooks for reading on the go, and the old school smell and feel of paper when relaxing at home…


    • You can have the best of both worlds all you want . . . I’ll stick with my good ol’ fashioned books!

      By the way, I’m surprised you didn’t point out the irony of the fact that I read the article I mentioned on my mobile phone 😉


  3. My desire for Kindle is mainly to allow more access to books that I am unable to find in the small area I live in…..and check out all these “free for Kindle” downloads of books…if I like what I read enough, I would then probably buy the actual book……
    I will always, ALWAYS love real books more…but I love to read so much that I just love the idea of being able to do so even more


    • I just noticed this comment, Sharon! I think I vaguely remember getting a notification about it, but why I never responded is beyond me!

      So, I’m responding now!

      I totally understand the real, honest-to-goodness reasons for owning a Kindle . . . I just still can’t bring myself to do it!

      There was a e-book available by Sherilyn Kenyon last year (well, long before that, but last year was when I started reading Sherilyn Kenyon). The book was ONLY available in electronic format. It was a short story . . . and so I printed it out because I just could not read it on my computer. It felt *wrong* 😛


  4. I agree with you real books have a great feeling and smell that invites you in, yet I’m also a kindle owner. I’m still a big fan of the library and spending hours in a second hand book store. There are some books I won’t read on my kindle, since it loses it’s feeling. I’m also cheap, so I don’t want to buy books to put onto my kindle. Overall, I question why I bought the kindle since I read more ‘real’ books, but it’s nice for travel. Nice blog


    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Caroline!

      *If* I ever broke down and bought a Kindle, I think the same would happen to me . . . I’d end up wondering what purpose it served in the first place 😛

      I do totally understand the travel factor, but I’ll still stick to my giant tote bags 😛


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