I resisted for years. I’ve been a collector of books all my life. I have bookshelves in every room of the house, including the bathroom (see photo). And that’s after leaving a great many paperbacks behind in various moves plus contributing hundreds of books to my local Friends of the Library book sales.
It seemed like it would be a great loss to not experience the color and texture of the book cover, the heft and smell of the book itself, the pleasure of turning over a new leaf. There is something about picking up a “physical book” (as they are called nowadays), whether it’s brand new or treasured old, that I felt could never be equaled by some little electronic device that just popped virtual words onto a screen.
And, no question, I was right: None of those experiences, and they are all good experiences, can be captured with a Kindle or a Nook or an iPad or whatever e-reader you care to mention.
So why did I finally get a Kindle? (This was, mind you, years before I knew my first book would be an e-book.) Because all those bookshelves in all those rooms were full and for several years I’d had to give away a book for every book I bought to avoid piles of books on the floor. I didn’t want piles of books on the floor. Nor did I want to give away any more books.
It was a little awkward at first. As far as I could recall I’d never had a learning curve with a book, so it was odd that I had to learn the mechanics of reading again: how to open books, turn pages, bookmark, make notes, etc. For the longest time I didn’t know what the hell a “collection” was.
And when did I fall in love with my Kindle? (For I am, indeed, in love with it.) A day or so after it arrived, I was reading the New York Review of Books and was intrigued by a particular title; it was a book that really excited me and I wanted to have it as soon as possible. Still thinking in technologically medieval terms of shipping dates and delivery times, I went to the Amazon website and realized that all I had to do was “click here” to have the book on my Kindle thirty seconds later. THAT was one hell of a kick.
For a long time now I’ve read several hours a day, at least, on my Kindle. I have over a thousand books stored on it. I admit that on the rare occasion I pick a book off my shelf now it feels heavy and clumsy. It feels inconvenient to have to actually turn the damned page. Oh, how far I have fallen! But what a pleasant dive it has been.
So which is better, the e-book or the physical book? My conclusion is utterly wimpy, that it’s simply a matter of taste and convenience. I still love my “physical” books, big and clumsy though they be, and I love the books on my Kindle despite their having no heft.
I’m just very glad I don’t have to find shelf space for them all.