09 August 2012

On the Demise of the Paper Book

We’re losing books these days. Everything’s converting to digital. Sales between hard copies and ebooks are just about even. And ebooks will continue to gain ground. A lot of people resist this. They say they’ll never convert, and they give reasons why. “I love the smell of the pages.” That’s a big one. I do too. When your pillow presses around your head, and you let the book drop over your face, not because you’ve fallen asleep but because you’re about to. Or “I love the weight of the pages in my hand, and how I can feel how much I’ve read and how far I have to go.” Me too. There’s no replacing a tactile measurement like that. The Kindle’s “68%” will never fully measure up. For me though, the thing I’ll miss the most, is the texture, how you can see the t pressed onto the microfibers, or how a sheet that misfed into the machinery has a subtle, flat crease pressed into it that jogs in a diagonal behind the paragraphs, or how, when you hold the top of the page toward an open window on a Thursday morning, you can see a million little dimples in the surface.


  1. Silly J-ravis. Don't you know that you can do both? Indeed, some texts lend themselves well to print, and others to digital. Soft-cover books just work better in digital format. Those small books are annoying to hold open and hard to read in the crease without ruining the spine. You also don't have the luxury of automated dictionary integration, accessible highlight and note data, and large libraries in your hand.

    However, large books, both hard-cover and text books, benefit from physical form. I don't worry about creased spines on these, and they just flop open after they're broken in. They have the smell and the convenience. Now, they still don't have dictionary integration and global notes/highlights, but they are easier to flip through quickly if you find yourself jumping to sections a lot. Text books benefit from this the most for me because I flip to diagrams and other reference material regularly. Not so with fiction.

    Also, I much prefer the "68%" of Kindle. I find myself doing math with print every time I want an update on my reading progress. Numbers are clearer to me than thickness. Digital makes me happy.

    Also, also, Kindle has some awesome texture all its own. You should experience it. It makes you want to read more just to hold it. (And heft it. It has weight too.) It also has machine error, since you seem to enjoy that. :-)

  2. I agree with all of the above (post and comments).

    But, I do have to say, a Kindle is infinitely superior to print books when traveling.

    I also want to add, that as much as I love the fact that I can check out ebooks online from both the Provo library and my home library at the same time (that means a total of 15 checked out books at a time on my Kindle without even leaving my apartment!), nothing will ever compare to the peaceful quiet of exploring a library after a stressful day at school or the memories of running to my favorite shelf filled with yellow-bound Nancy Drew books when I was 8. There is power in a room full of the written word, of people's thoughts and feelings sitting on shelves waiting for you to pick them up and read.

  3. I remember examining an eReader in a bookstore a few years ago. I examined it and clicked around for maybe a minute, put it down, and remember not having much interest it in. Then I bought a paper book.

    Fast forward a few years. This Christmas a Kindle Touch was #1 on my Christmas wish list. I use my Kindle whenever possible, even when I have access to a paper copy of the same book. I don't know what happened to me. I think it might have to do with tiring of moving my many paper books (which doubled when I got married) from apartment to apartment each year. I think the biggest reason is probably that advertisement tricked my subconscious, which although previously loyal to paper books has been trained in our materialistic society to always want new things, into wanting an eReader.

  4. I just read this. It's an interesting perspective. :)



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— J