As somebody who both loves having a Kindle and who is proud of his fairly extensive physical library, it can be infuriating to hear people talk about their perception that eReaders stand in opposition to books. I will certainly acknowledge that there is a completely different tactile experience that you get when reading a printed book. I’m not even going to try to make the claim that it isn’t superior to that of the eReader, since that’s obviously a matter of personal preference rather than objective evaluation. What I promote, however, is the idea that while it may be important in some cases, as a general rule the medium through which a text comes to you should always be secondary to the text itself.
When I buy a book, speaking solely for myself, I buy it because I want something to read. When there’s something I particularly like, or when there’s an edition that adds something that can’t be found elsewhere, I grab a copy for the bookshelf. This keeps it available, visible, easily referenced, and has a certain aesthetically pleasing effect. In no situation that I can think of, however, would I grab a book that I have no interest in reading. What would be the point? Now, assuming you’re still with me to this point, it only stands to reason that eReaders like the Kindle make a book-lover’s life a little easier.
Even if you leave aside the issue of bulk and transportation when it comes to a paper book, there’s a big advantage to having books available electronically. Availability. An eBook never runs out at the local store, never goes out of print, and theoretically will never wear out. While there is a certain nostalgia in picking up a well-loved old book that is just coming apart at the seams, I’d rather than a copy that is as readable the tenth time as it was the first. And if I want to go back and read the author’s earlier works because I liked it so much, I don’t want to have to worry about the book being out of print or on weeks of back-order at the local book store. In either of those cases, I’d be more likely to put the idea of reading what I want aside because it would be more hassle than enjoyment. Thanks to the Kindle, no worries.
It should go without saying that this only serves to enhance the existing system rather than detract from it. There will always be situations where you want a paper copy, whether it is to fill a book shelf, doodle in the margins, run a highlighter over, or what have you. In the end, however, it’s better to have the text available. That is the primary concern on which everything else rests, and the service that the Kindle provides. One way or another, if an eBook has existed then it is highly unlikely that it will fail to be available should you need it. This cannot be a bad thing, when what you truly care about is experiencing the text of a book.
3 thoughts on “Kindle vs Nostalgia: Why Books Aren’t Harmed By eBooks”
It’s not true that a Kindle book “will never go out of print”. I downloaded a sample of “The Glory” by Herman Wouk from Amazon.com, liked it and wanted to buy the book. When I tried to do so, it was “no longer available”. It’s no longer available at kobobooks or ibooks either. It seems that the publisher (Back Bay Books, a division of Hachette) decided to make it no longer available electronically, even though it remains available in print. My repeated attempts to get an explanation for this from the publisher have not been answered, and I am frustrated.
Hi Matthew. Great article, thanks for posting. I couldn’t agree more – my personal thoughts are that there will always be a use (and place in peoples hearts) for physical books. EBooks offfer such ease of access and on-demand delivery that I really think the digitization of literature could increase reading – hopefully anyway.
Personally, I’ll continue buying books and eBooks as I too believe there is a place for both.
All the best
If I have my Kindle with me, the “look and feel and smell of a real book” people usually get a little tight-lipped once I show them the leather Oberon Kindle cover that looks, feels, and smells better than the nicest book in their library – and its a covering I can enjoy for book after book.