The eBook Experience

20 Sep

I want to write about something that fires me up a little inside.

The Apple iPad, the Amazon Kindle, the Sony Reader, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and more.

People are saying these devices are pioneering a new wave in technology. That they will revolutionize the way we read and write.

I don’t disagree these technologies will change things in a big way. And I get that going digital is going green, (although I could argue with that too). I just don’t know that I like it, call me old fashioned, call me a geek, call me whatever. But so much of reading is an experience, one that can’t be replicated electronically.

I grew up with books. Lots of them. My father was a self-proclaimed bookaholic. He owned thousands of books in his lifetime and our house was filled with them. We weren’t allowed to watch TV. We had a game where my father would close his eyes and I would stand in front of his wall of bookcases and pick a title at random and 9 out of 10 times he could guess the author. Every month he would lovingly clean each book with gloves and a dry cloth.

There is something beautiful about owning a set of Encyclopedia Brittanicas. Or a collectors edition of The Prophet. Stopping mid-sentence to pick a dictionary off your shelf and flipping through to find the meaning of a word. The silent mutual respect of browsers in a bookstore.

And there is something kind of dull and anti-social about just typing that same word into Google Dictionary and clicking on results.

It seems standardized and hospital to turn stories into digitized white text. Somehow it feels less personal, less unique, less special. Books you can tap to own, pages you can swipe with your finger, sentences that are highlighted before you read them, buttons to recommend to your friends, suggested reading based on what people who are similar to you enjoy.

Where is the joy in that? Where is the sense of discovery?

I understand the entertainment value. I understand the convenience. But for me, it’s a completely different experience, something between playing mindless games, reading the newspaper or checking my email. I want to feel the heavy weight of a book in my hands. I want to feel the texture of the paper. I want to smell a book’s smell. I want to think about who held this and read these words before me. I want to proudly stand in front of my own library.

Is it possible that in our quest for more information, we lose the ability to learn for ourselves?

Can the digital world really duplicate reality?


6 Responses to “The eBook Experience”

  1. Rob September 21, 2010 at 3:03 am #

    I agree with you Debi. I completely understand the benefits of such a device – both in terms of convenience and [alleged] environment – however there is something magical in a book from it’s smell, it’s texture, the tactile way you get immersed in it and then … and I admit this might show how sad I am … the way you can build up a collection and see what you’ve learnt or [as is my case] what you could learn if you ever got round to reading them.

    I do have to say I believe the way you read information on a screen – even ink based like Kindle – is different to a book based on the reflective qualities of the information you are consuming, and I believe there’s some science to back that up, however ultimately it is something that I believe will sadly become more and more prevalent, not because of the alleged benefits I detailed above, but because it allows publishers to make more money.

    Lovely first post. More please.

  2. Charinee September 21, 2010 at 5:15 am #

    I love your first post πŸ™‚

  3. emilia September 23, 2010 at 7:40 am #

    thumbs up πŸ™‚
    i agree completely, love the smell of books, i am a compulsive sniffer, and love all my books even so much i sorted them by color once (not recommended).
    but then on the other hand imagine how easy it would be to move! everything on the ipad, no more boxes.
    think i will give it a try and will let you know the results. xz

  4. kaichin September 27, 2010 at 7:16 am #

    When I go into people’s homes and I see no sign of books or literacy of any kind, it frightens me and I think on some deep level, I trust them less. What kinds of people don’t have books?

    I think as people build their collections, and inevitably it seems as though people will have a tangible book collection, and then a separate electronic book collection – that shelfspace in the real world will be equivalent to heartspace. Ebooks don’t take up any space and I find something weird and ghostly about it…

    I have posted extensively on this topic on my blog, although it’s long and Rob will probably tell you I am irritatingly long winded and pathetic, so no pressure. Anyway keep up the good work, your posts are great!

    • Debi October 14, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

      Hi Kaichin,

      Thanks for your comment πŸ™‚

      Your blog is great! Will def follow you on that, it’s nice to hear people agreeing on this, was beginning to think I was super old fashioned. I totally agree, people will begin having 2 libraries, one physical and one electronic, and for different purposes and habits of reading. I already notice when I read news online, I am reading articles much quicker, scanning things and just trying to get the gist. Whereas, reading things in person are so much more luxurious and leisurely, nothing better than a book and a comfy chair and a cup of tea.

      • Debi November 9, 2010 at 10:24 am #

        Here’s another interesting follow-up article on the subject:

        Seems another problem with the iPad right now is that publishers were overly ambitious in their pricing for magazine apps. The initial hype saw people subscribe to the first few issues of apps like Wired, but as the excitement wears off, interest is waning. Number of different reasons, perhaps only one reason being that people may not be buying into the experience, but a larger reason being that it’s not easy enough yet – subscriptions are too costly to justify and app size is too big.

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