Some Thoughts on eBooks
Recently I read that for the first time, Amazon had sold more electronic books than paper books. I will admit to feeling distressed at this news.
I can certainly recognize and appreciate the many advantages that eBooks can provide. Cost, convenience, search features, and ease of portability and storage are just a few benefits that come to mind. I have eBooks and I enjoy them. “All in one place” does have many advantages.
I well remember my University days and lugging around the heavy stacks of large necessary books. How convenient it must be for a student today who needs to take only their electronic tablet with them each morning. My daughter, who recently graduated from college, carried 70% of her books with her on her IPad! Although they were still ridiculously expensive, the EBooks remained much cheaper than the paper editions.
And cost. It is hard to argue against the many eBooks out there that are absolutely free!
However, there is a dark side to the eBook phenomena.
I fear that the eBooks are slowly killing our book stores. For me the book store has always been a quiet and peaceful refuge from the storms and hectic pace of the day. A place filled with comfortable chairs and interesting people. A place that smelled of paper and books. A place where books could be discussed and time could be spent browsing the many aisles with their colorful residents. A people place where human interaction was encouraged. I just about always found a book that I decided I must have.
I remember as a young man the run-down “used book” stores that could be found on the downtown back streets of any major city. These stores were always filled with that wonderful musty smell. That unique smell of stacks of dusty old leather bound books that had been long forgotten. Now I can’t remember the last time I saw an entire shelf of real leather bound books.
I reside in a small town, and last summer I attended the sad closing of our only community book store. This wonderful place was a victim to the poor economy and the rise of the eBooks. This store was where I had my major book signings and readings. This is where I met many new authors at their signings. This was where I spent many of my lazy Saturday afternoons. My dog Seamus was always welcome there and he usually accompanied me. They would always keep a bowl of water close at hand for him. The local artisans gathered at the book store on their last business day. Poets read the “Requiems for a Book Store” poems that they had written for the occasion. It was a sad day for all. A thrift store has opened in that location.
I believe that there is another drawback of eBooks . A drawback that is harder for me to define and explain. I believe that the act of sitting and reading to a young child in your lap almost requires a real paper book to be done properly. They help turn the pages and point to the illustrations. They help hold the book. When the story is finished, many times they want to hold the book themselves and turn pages. They usually watch as their favorite book is returned to their bookshelf. Have you ever enjoyed the marvelous sight of a young child holding their favorite book and seriously pretending to read to their teddy bear or favorite doll? It is one of the most adorable sighs you will ever see. I remember my daughter reading (and pretending to read) like that to her dog. Interestingly enough, her dog would sit quietly listening to her. He would cock his head as she changed or raised her voice. When she was finished, she would put her book away. It was her book. That is something that an EBook can never do! I know, it could come close – but never close enough! Some things still need to be felt and touched. Besides, my books can take some punishment from a child – my IPad or computer cannot!
I should also mention signed books. I take pride in my modest collection of autographed books. Each one has an interesting story to tell. Personalized autographs still belong only to the realm of paper books.
So what are my conclusions? I believe that eBooks and paper books both have a place. Each has unique roles to fill. I own both. In many respects, EBooks are like television, personal computers, and other electronic advancements. If we are not careful, they can be overused and quietly supplant other important aspects of our culture and our humanity.
I hope the day never comes when I tell my young grandson that I can remember the days when books were printed on paper and you had one of your very own – and he looks up at me with those big brown eyes and says, “Really Grandpa? Really?”
Originaly written for Imagicopter Authors Cooperative 6/10/11