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June 29, 2011


I have a Kindle, and my list of books on it is growing. It's still an odd experience not be able to flip back and forth the pages as I can with a paperback, and then, there is also the design issue, which you have already addressed. Oddly enough, though, I find that reading on the Kindle keeps me in a linear focus for reading, which is all and well, but as I said, I miss my own private engagement with the text when I flip back and forth while reading.

Since my allergies to mold are getting worse, I am forced to get rid of a lot of my paper books. With the winnowed shelves I feel a bit impoverished, even as the list of my e-books is growing. Somehow those books don't seem as real.

I just started reading Hamlet's Blackberry, on the heels of opening up a conversation on Twitter with its author, William Powers (http://www.williampowers.com/) who does address these issues in his book, and in an essay that pre-dates the book, on why "paper is eternal." So I might have more to add after my readings. Still, as you can tell, I am ambivalent about my e-reading experiences, a bit as I am about Facebook. (but not Twitter, oddly enough ... but now I am off the subject!)

I just recently got a Kindle and love it...and at the same time, I don't see it as being a "replacement" for physical books, just a different format for reading some books.

What I like about the Kindle is being able to carry a whole shelf of books in one small device, and being able to search those books. (One of the first books I downloaded, for instance, was Thoreau's Walden because I just love the idea that I can carry it with me even while I'm reading something else.) I also like being able to use the dictionary while I'm reading, and I love being able to highlight/annotate passages without having to carry a pen: everything is "in" the device, and I can access all my highlights & notes in one place, which is helpful when I want to go back and review something.

Like you, I love the physical aspect of books...and yet, because I got a leather cover for my Kindle, it feels good to hold, too: not the same as a book, but appealing in it's own way. The Kindle screen doesn't glow like a laptop or computer screen, so it doesn't feel like I'm staring at an electronic device: it's easier on my eyes.

It's definitely very easy to make impulse purchases on the Kindle, so I can see why some folks might overindulge. But I like the idea that I can buy a cheaper version of the new books I would have splurged to buy in hardback anyway, without having to find space on my shelves for them. There are some books, as you note, that I simply want to read when they come out, but I don't necessarily need to keep them on my shelves forever. There are some books I want to touch, and other books I don't "need" to touch, so having a Kindle simply means I categorize my reading list accordingly: which books are worth requesting (and waiting for) at the library, which do I want to own, and what format do I prefer (electronic or tactile) for the latter?

"..the post has become increasingly irrelevant" - made me smile. I need to act on that!

I do not have an e-book reader. I've never read an e-book. Kindle is only a something of a curiosity - I do not see a pressing need to shift from my habit of reading physical books, which I enjoy for the reasons you've outlined above.

But I have an iPad, which I find very comfortable to read short pieces on the web: blogs, articles, short essays. My online reading has gone up after the iPad, because I do not like to read much on a PC or a laptop. That said, devices like iPad are slowly also changing what we "consume" - as opposed to purely read - and how we consume it. Some interesting possibilities are being explored at http://www.futureofthebook.org/

It would nice to hear about your experiences with e-books, as you read more of those in the days ahead.

I have a Sony Reader and its a fine machine. Touch, easy to read and well built. I use it mostly through the Sony Reader store for one reason. They have millions of free books that Google copies from libraries around the world. Books that in the editions on line could never be purchased at a low price.
Such as: Autumn, Summer, Spring by Henry David Thoreau, Epicurus' Morals, The Essays of Montaigne, Xenophon on Socrates, Selected letters of Nietzsche and on and on.
Most if not all are worth the price-----free.
But I'm still a BOOK IN HAND person and will always be but instead of buying up the above, or going to my local university library I take the free ones from Sony Reader store and Google.

I have bought 2 books so far to read on the iPad (which I have owned for a little less than a year). I didn't think I'd like it very much but I have to admit that after a few pages, the story took over and I forgot about the support. It helped of course that I was really enjoying the book ( Vendela Vita: The lovers http://www.harpercollins.ca/books/The-Lovers-Vendela-Vida/?isbn=9781554686179 ) In fact, I liked the book so much that I kind of regret not having a paper copy on a bookshelf! But I think it's a reflex that we will get rid off (missing the physical book), as long as we have a way to get access to the book when the iPads and other ereaders are replaced by newer technologies. It's the obsolescence that scares me, really. (Remember old e-mails you no longer have access to but wish you could read?)

On the other hand, there are things that an ebook can do that a paper one could never accomplish. I haven't bought this copy of "On the road", but it seems like they did a great job with the digital edition: http://www.latimes.com/la-et-on-the-road-20110622,0,4882600.story

Imagine the same type of special edition for your favorite book or author, with interviews, short documentaries about the context in which the book was written, stories about the publishing world of the time, great photos, audio excerpts, etc. I'd LOVE to work on such a project! It would combine my interests for literature/cinema/journalism/multimedia. (Yeah, I'm thinking about my future career ;)

I have a first-generation Kindle that has nearly more titles on it than I have books in my apartment. (To be fair, the majority of my library is in boxes still from the last move, but even so, my Kindle is packed.) It took me some time to warm up to. I got the thing for travel, and to save my back; like many of us, I'm sure, I get far more anxious about leaving the house without at least a few books than I do leaving without my phone, and I thought it would be nice to consolidate a stack of hardbacks into one sleek machine.

The first few months I had it, it sat at home. The sort of books I was prone to weren't available on the Kindle; I found myself absentmindedly trying to write on the screen (no, not kidding); I liked that I didn't have to worry about damaging books, while the Kindle seemed disagreeably fragile.

These days, it's feels much more comfortable. I've gotten used to clicking pages, and the much broader array of available books has made filling it (obviously) easier. I still use "real books" for my classes and academic work--not only are most not available in e-form, I still find it far easier to mark pages and insert physical bookmarks, especially when it comes to later referencing and writing--but when it comes to novels and short stories and even new popular nonfiction, I'm finding the Kindle a delight. And yes, I definitely buy more books on it. I'd be a bit embarrassed to confess how many each month.

Beth, I too prefer the printed page, the feel of paper, the portability and chunkiness of a real book. I'd never buy a Kindle or other electronic reading gadget. I don't like reading long texts on a screen anyway, whatever size it is. And I like seeing books on shelves too, being able to browse shelves, go back and find something you've forgotten about. It will be a tragedy if bookstores and libraries disappear in future, taken over by electronic erzatz 'books'.

I love and live surrounded by paper books, but also read e-books on iPad and Kindle. Am getting ready to go on vacation and am loading up on books on the Kindle. Lovely to just keep piling them on and on - I used to hate the anxiety of deciding which few physical books I would select to lug around in my suitcase while on vacation. As a poetry publisher, I have found that easily 50% to 60% of copies obtained by potential readers are the e-book version which, in our case, is always available free.

I got a Kindle for my birthday, probably because everyone sees me lugging 8 or 10 books with me whenever I make an out-of-town visit. And I am happy to have it for that very reason, travel! Books are heavy, luggage is not free on airlines anymore, my back, oy vey! So I read and buy books, go to the library and take out books, etc. pretty much as I did before, except for traveling. The kindle is good for the beach, the airplane, and even for occasionally putting it in my pocket when I take a walk, so I don't have to carry a book, and if I stop for a coffee, I have something to read. But, I can't read poetry on the Kindle, although I gladly read plenty of it on line. For nuzzling with poetry, I must have a paper book.

I have a Kindle aplication on my laptop and one on my Blackberry. Honestly I have rarely used them. I like real books... especially where poetry is concerned. And at least 80% of my book purchases are poetry. I especially have an aversion to purchasing e-books. Why i'm not sure but I do.

As i understand it if everyone had e-books there would be no publishing and no bookstores..reason enough to be a luddite on this issue.I was in New York earlier this month and came back with maybe 25 books,mostly from the Strand.Will I read them all?I dunno I liked them and wanted them near me when I bought them.I am with Alberto Manguel talking about his books."They don't require that i pretend to know them all.I have no feeling of guilt regarding the books i have not read; I know my books have unlimited patience.They will wait for me till the end of my days"

There is no way that I will ever read e-books, no way.
I like the feel of a book in my hand, I like turning the pages with my fingers, lingering over the corners, stroking the paper. I like the texture of the cover, especially when the cover is textured. I like the look of the print, especially when the print is special. I like to feel the weight of the book and of the words. I like to see my books waiting on my shelves like old friends to whose company I return often. I like to dust them and rediscover an old favourite which I will sit down to read there and then. I like to find things slipped between the pages, a ticket to the theatre, a receipt for a meal, a boarding pass for a flight, a photograph of The Rags sitting on the steps of the duomo in Orvieto.
There is no way that I will ever read e-book, no way.

Another thought that occurred to me since I commented yesterday...

The real revolution will come when TEXTBOOKS are available digitally. The large, clunky anthologies that are required in the online classes I teach aren't particularly pleasant to read, physically: they're heavy and have thin pages that aren't very good for note-taking. I would love, love, LOVE to replace the stack of textbooks I have to carry when I travel with the same books loaded on my Kindle.

For my face-to-face classes, I assign inexpensive, more portable paperback editions...but even then, I'm reading/teaching a handful of books at any given moment, and there's always the hassle of needing a particular book at home and then realizing I left it in my office at school. Having a Kindle loaded with all the books I'm teaching in all of my classes would be a huge convenience: no need to schlepp heavy bags loaded with multiple books between home and school.

and one more thing...
what do you do when your technology lets you down?

E-books: I did take Mike's iPad to Wales and thought I might use it that way but ended up reading only some books about foliated heads out of Clive's library. Otherwise, nada. I imagine I might borrow it again another time but feel no compulsion to have a Kindle or Nook of my own.

As a mother who has sent three children to our public schools, I feel very strongly that this could be a great benefit to children, who carry unbelievably weight to school and back in their packs. Moreover, only bits and pieces of these gigantic texts they bear about are relevant to a class. I hate to see children at bus stops with over-sized backpacks, often leaning forward or back to get some relief or staggering as they attempt to board the bus and navigate steps. It's nuts, and since minor spine abnormalities are so common in children, bad for health care. Moreover, textbooks need to be updated frequently, and then the old ones are tossed--they could be easily revised as e-books.

Also: there are a lot of ephemeral books that we don't need so many copies of--used bookstores can't handle the number of copies of junk bestsellers that flood the used markets.

The thing I miss most about the decline of paper books is browsing. Browsing was a marvelous way to find new authors, discover quirky books that fell through the cracks but were sometimes supported by fans among bookstore buyers. Now that's only possible if you live near a decent library, and even then it's not a fair selection of new books.

As a writer, I prefer a paper book for all sorts of physical reasons, including the simple one of just not wanting to be totally married to machines, particularly since I spend a lot of time writng on one.

I plain old like the beauty of books, and I think this aspect of them will only increase, given the pressure from e-books. My newest books is, I think, astonishingly lovely and well made and designed--in fact, it is the first book of mine to pass the librarian mother test in every respect. My mother usually has something critical to say about the boards being imperfectly aligned or the interior design or errors or something! This time: perfect.

Of course, at the same time there is very little editorial attention at many houses now, so the writer is more on his/her own--although that is not so different from prior eras. The 20th century spoiled us in that way, I believe.

And books are major artifacts of the past, which often remain even when a civilization and its technology collapse.

"writng": I debated whether it sometimes feel that way, but no. Just hate typos!

I have a lot of sympathy with John and Mouse, but I think I'm probably going to succomb to a Kindle very soon. I do most of my reading on the long bus journey to and from work, so the weight issue is a big one. I habitually carry 2 or 3 hefty paperbacks around in my backpack every day, which can be very heavy. A recent case in point was the latest from the totally wondrous historical crime writer CJ Sansom, a 'trade paperback' with oversize pages and close to two inches thick. Carrying this around was ridiculous, but it was so compelling, I couldn't bear not to take it on the bus. So an e-reader is really going to be of benefit to me. Also, I have a ridiculous number of books that long since overflowed all the bookshelves in my tiny flat and my quality of life would improve if I got rid of a lot and stopped acquiring so many, restricting it to those I really want to physically possess and am likely to return to. And if I had kids, I'd certainly be with Marly. The wider implications are worrying, though.

As a resident of rural BC the thing I miss most compared to living in more populated areas is bigger library. But still no e-reader for me. Drop/lose it and most my library gone? No thanks.

I have 2 great independent bookstores in the next towns. The library, inter-library loans, used books & bookshelves of friends make up for most of the rest. And of course Abebooks - a great book resource, highly recommended. Abebooks lets you search by the usual author, title etc but you can search by country and place book on your wait list.

Put up a posting but somehow didn't get it published. I'll just remark that I love my Kindle 3.

and then again, one of my greatest pleasures is to share my books with The Rags
So my daughter leaves with the latest Stephen King that I've bought from the man at work who sells books
My son disappears with a copy of Dracula
And sometimes they will pick up one of my books at random and encounter a new author, fresh ideas and a whole other view of the world
And if the number of books becomes too large to handle I can always pass them on to someone else, although I can always seem to find space for more books

Great article and discussion, Beth. I love books and the feel of paper and have not yet tried reading a book on Fred's iPad. Marly's comments speak for me.

The other day I read about J.K. Rowlings "landmark for digital publishing" that I think you may find quite interesting within this context, as both read and publisher: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Rowling+develops+landmark+digital+publishing/5009857/story.html Do check out her new site as well. Now I'm not pushing this particular author but it seems that it may be the future, even in education.

I've had a Kindle now for two or three years. I have at least 250 e-books. I have no idea how many actual books I own. Recently my daughter made fun of me because I have books (which are not cookbooks) stacked on the shelf above my wall ovens. There are books in drawers, in my china cabinet, in closets, stacked on tables and desks and the fireplace. Every bookshelf in this house is overfull. I visited a bookstore on Sunday and bought three more. Another came in the mail today. If a book is beautiful, or especially precious to me in some way, I always buy a hard copy. In some rare cases, like Mark Twain's autobiography, I actually own the hardcover as well as the e-book.

I like my Kindle. It's like having a library in my purse. I read on my laptop, the desktop, and even my phone and ipod. But I will never give up my books. (And isn't it interesting that I call the physical books "actual"?)

Reading back over that, I wonder if perhaps there is a sickness that involves acquiring books...if so, I surely am infected.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.