On the Subject of Books

So I came across something on Tumblr the other day which really set me off. Someone had shared a picture which said “No one should be shamed for reading” and it had a picture of a little paper book and an e-book reader holding hands. Very cute.

No one should be shamed for reading!
Adorable, no? I’m absolutely loving this.

With the reblog, the poster says, “YES. I’m tired of all of you pretentious assholes saying that I’m not ‘really reading’ because I use a kindle.”

But it’s the next reblogger down who really gets me.

“Yes, you are reading.You are just reading a ‘lesser’ form of book. Reading isn’t just reading the words on a page/screen, it’s smelling the book, new or old, it’s wearing the books spine out after rereading it for the X’th time, it’s leaving crease marks on a page you flipped too fast because you were that eager to get to the next page, and most of all, it’s losing yourself in a book to the point where the world around you no longer exists. And I, for one, cannot lose myself in an electronic screen. The words of a real book take on a depth that cannot ever be recreated on anything electronic. So you may be reading a book, but you will never truly experience a book unless you read it in a printed medium.”

…The rest of the rebloggers decided that they would call him out of his own pretentiousness (with at least one blogger commenting that since he was writing this electronically, his words couldn’t really be experienced and as such they were going to ignore him), but his comments stuck with me.

Now, I’m all for paper books. (Or as we call them in my family, dead tree books.) If I think a book has significant value to me, or I specifically want to support the author (and potentially get a signed copy) I’ll buy a paper book. It’s why I have a shelf of M.C.A. Hogarth books, or the series of vintage hardback Chronicles of Amber books, because they’re not really the right books unless they’re the ones my dad raised me reading. There are a lot of books I have, or I’d like to have, like that.

But I also have a Nook Tablet, and I love it. Especially for books like the A Song of Ice and Fire series, those are big books, and I’m still not in a static location with my life. The fewer massive paper tomes I have to lug around, the better. I also have the complete works of Shakespeare on there, and the Divergent trilogy, and many many others. Several of Hogarth’s short stories are only on e-readers. So how is that exactly a lesser form of book?

There was resistance, I know, to the e-book revolution, as it were. People wanted their paper, and for all the reasons the poster said. There is a special something about smelling the pages or an old (or new) book. There’s something to be said about dog-ears and well-loved books, so worn that the covers are falling off. (I have a set of Lord of the Rings books just like that that I inherited from my parents.) And I agree–those are all amazing and wonderful things about having a book.

But just because one person can’t lose themselves in an electronic screen doesn’t mean no one else can. I’ve lost myself plenty of times into my Nook, just as I do any other book. Honestly, half of the time it’s easier with my Nook, since I can hold it with one hand and turn the page with a tap of my finger. That’s not lesser–that’s just more.

This is a good point as well. Fairly certain there are pros and cons here.
This is a good point as well. Fairly certain there are pros and cons everywhere here, and this is even from the other side!

The world of books is growing and evolving, and that’s something to embrace, not shy away from. We can still have our beloved dead trees, and our e-books. Trust me, I love few things more than walking into a bookstore or, better yet, a used bookstore, and seeing all the magic someone’s left for a new person to find.

Because isn’t that what reading is to us? A little sliver of magic, worked into our mundane lives, to show us something new? Be it fiction, non-fiction, or poetry, it’s all a little something away from our lives. And if we can find it in a TV screen or a movie screen, why not a tablet screen?

My books will still be there when I come home, and I’ll love them all the same. But I’d rather have my Nook on a plane with me, especially since I don’t check luggage.

What do you think? Are you an all paper or all electronic reader, or are you somewhere in the middle? What do you like or dislike about these formats? Let me know in the comments!


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