What’s a “Real” Book?

I confess that I have developed a preference for electronic books—not least because my first book is currently available only in electronic form.

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.

2 Responses to “What’s a “Real” Book?”

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  1. I’m in total agreement. Initially I was against e books. But now my advice to everyone is don’t knock it until you try it. Of course it doesn’t feel like a book, but it’s the words and where they take you that are important. The only down side is once you have an Amazon account it is oh so easy to click that little button!

  2. Smoky Zeidel says:

    I think Kindles are great for those of us whose eyes don’t see as well as they once did. I love being able to enlarge the type. And while I read more books on Kindle now than print, I still read print. And if I read a new release on Kindle that I absolutely adore, I usually go out and buy a print copy for the shelves anyway! But yeah, we’ve got stacks of print books all over our tiny 800 square-foot house, and it’s gotten out of hand. Perhaps I’ll drill holes through several piles, run some wires through, and turn them into lamps?

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