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Monday, November 14, 2011

#nokindle - "For me, a book is about the smell, the feel of the paper etc..."

This is part of my 'nokindle' series addressing a few misgivings about e-book readers (with a specific focus on the Kindle because I have one) that I feel are unjust. The introductory post is here.

If the title of this post describes you then, in all honesty, you're doing it wrong.

If, for you, a book is largely ornamental, then you certainly won't like an ebook reader. I've known people like this; people who buy books purely for their prettiness and without any intention of actually reading them. For me, and I assume many bookworms, books are about the words; specifically which words, the order they've been put in, their sum total, and their abstract emotional and intellectual effect on the intangible 'me'. That these words are written down somewhere, that they're clear and comfortable to read, is enough to convey the purpose of a book. To me, a book is not about what the words are written upon, but the words themselves.

Don't get me wrong; the smell of a musty old book is something I find particularly pleasurable, and the feel of crinkly paper between my fingers only adds to the sensation. But owning an ebook reader does not mean that you have to renounce books in their physical form; I have solid, tangible bookshelves with solid, tangible books on them, and no desire to get rid all, or indeed any of them. Now, however, I concentrate on buying in hardcopy form those books which hold a particular attraction to me and go towards defining who I am. I own copies of some books both in traditional form and on my Kindle.

Owning one does not preclude ownership of the other. In fact, I have downloaded copies of a couple of books for my Kindle for free (The Picture of Dorian Gray, for example) that I intend to find solid versions of in particularly aesthetic form; hardback, first edition, limited edition, or the like. If I had bought a paperback version of the book in its cheapest form (as I no doubt would, not knowing how much I'd like it before I had read it) I'd struggle to justify looking for a particularly nice version for my bookshelf.

So, to summarise: you won't want an e-book if books, to you, are primarily something to look at. If, however, they're something to read, then I don't see this issue - given that you're still allowed to buy paper-based books - being a problem.