I Still Like Books
About a year ago I wrote a short (and poorly constructed) love letter to books. A few of my friends were quite excited about finally getting their own Kindles, but I didn’t think I’d ever want an e-reader, if I could help it. I just liked books too much. Now I’m waffling. They’re just so convenient, and new books can be had so cheaply, that I can’t not think about how cool it would be. I’m still partial to the codex, though.
I don’t think I could let go of the tactile aspect of a good book. Perhaps it’s subconscious. I spend the better part of 12 hours in front of a screen each day (only 6 or 8 on weekends, thankfully), and reading is a chance for escape. I get as far away from a glowing LCD as possible, lean back (or forward, if the mood strikes me) and lose myself in prose. It’s just me and the author’s thoughts, with no distractions—no network, no email and hopefully no phone. There’s an understanding that I’m taking part in what, either printed by hand or machine, has been the primary way of reading for hundreds of years.
On top of that, the physical style and condition of the book in hand changes the environment; it alters the read, if only just so. The weight of the binding, the thickness and finishing of the paper, the texture of the cover, the cracks in the spine of a well-loved paperback. The sensory experience surrounding the act of reading is part of what makes it so pleasurable, and the physical form of the book is part of that experience. The e-reader is devoid of those subtle differences.
I just finished Lev Grossman’s Codex, which—through it’s vivid descriptions of how books were made and maintained in antiquity—made clear to me that my love of books enhances, but really isn’t dependent on, my love of reading. That’s probably why, at least for now, an e-reader is just not for me.
The book is dead…long live the book!