Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Reader's Dilemma

I am an avid reader and have always loved books. I love to see my books displayed around my home. Lots of bookshelves. One time a neighbor was at our house and was browsing my bookshelves (where I have them in order - my favorites on the top shelf then moving downward). She noticed that we liked many of the same books and thus was born the neighborhood book club. We've been going strong for 8 years.

But what if all of our books are on a portable device someday?

I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas. Originally I did not want one. I try to stay open to change and technology so I wasn't someone to say that an electronic device to read from is evil. But it wasn't for me. Book lovers love to hold books, love to own books, love to look at their books, lend them to friends and maybe reread their favorites someday. With an electronic device all of those joys are vanished. Our book club may have never come to be if my books had not been regally lined up on their shelves.

For 15 years my husband and I spent many evenings at our local Borders, browsing, reading in a corner, drinking tea and coffee. Browsing leads to finding. You don't have to know what you want - you spy it, you pick it up, you like the cover, the summary sounds interesting and you buy it. (Or maybe write it down and go home and request it from the library.) The point is - how do you browse on Amazon? You go on Amazon when you know what you want.

The Kindle has thousands of free books, thousands of books for less than $3.99, thousands, millions of choices. How would you ever browse through all of that to see something you wanted?

The demise of the big book stores is devastating. My only hope is that small, independent book stores begin to flourish as people miss browsing and discovering an unexpected find, hold it in their hands and take it home.

Best-selling author Jonathan Franzen has spoken of his fear that ebooks will have a detrimental effect on the world - and his belief that serious readers will always prefer print editions.He says a "sense of permanence has always been part of the experience."

How will you hand down your favorite books to your children - by giving them an outdated and obsolete rectangular electronic device? Because surely these reading machines will evolve and change as fast as an iphone.

Now I can get library books on the Kindle. This is something worthwhile. Because library books are borrowed anyway. you don't keep them. But if I ever read a borrowed book that I love so much that belongs on my top shelf, you can bet I will go out and find the print edition so I can keep it, lend it, refer to it, reread it and have it forever.

1 comment:

Kruncs of Cho'gall said...

I have owned a Kindle (now called Kindle Keyboard) for over a year, yet Amazon knows that I am still buying books... In the last six months I have ordered about 80 books from Amazon, and the only reason I haven't ordered more is because I am saving up; I actually have a portion of my income set aside to increasing my non-reference, purely-fiction library!

One regret I do have is that I have found several books and series that are only available as e-books... That stinks! Most recently I read Saxon Andrew's Annihilation series and started his new series Ashes of the Realm, all but Annihilation #1 being only available a e-books. :( I enjoyed the series so much that I bought several copies of the first book, one for myself and the rest for friends to borrow, but I am depressed I can't get the rest in print. That is my fear: the self-publishing authors who can't get their books to mass market paperback versions. (Maybe I should just print them? That thought keeps tempting me...)