Today’s guest post comes from Madislandgirl.
Like many Baboons, I am a reader. I almost never leave home without something to read in hand, the local librarians know me on sight. Finding a new author I enjoy is like making a new friend. I have raised a son and heir to be a reader too.
But at least for the foreseeable future, we won’t be investing in an e-reader. Yes, there are great features on the various models-you can make the font change, you can take notes, look up words and most tempting of all, you can be carrying around over 100 books in the physical space of one book-no mean consideration in a household that is chronically short of shelf space and long on book bags with torn seams from carrying around too many books.
When you check out an e-book from the library, you never need to worry about returning it on time or losing it, it simply disappears when it is due. For my friends whose hands now have trouble holding books over a certain size, an e-reader is a gift from heaven. All great stuff, but we aren’t getting one.
I’m not even tempted. In fact, the only reason I have done any research on e-readers is to write this piece. The reason I give is that I just don’t want one more thing that has to be “charged”-I’m bad at remembering to do it, and can only imagine the screen going dark, just as I am getting to the best part. But I know that isn’t the real reason.
The answer came to me while sitting next to a fellow fencing mom, both of us reading away, she on her e-reader, me with my book. I glanced over and my unbidden thought was, “I don’t want to do that!” What would I be missing if I were doing what she was doing? Why is important to me that my hands as well as my mind know what I am reading?
I like the covers of books. When I go to the library, I tend to use the computer to direct me to the general area I am interested in, then I stand before the shelves and scan for something interesting. My hunter instincts have been honed to identify at a glance which non-fiction books are probably meaty affairs, which are too thin to be satisfying, which are going to be tougher than I want to chew on right now. In fiction, the publisher has often gone to great trouble to design a book’s appearance to let me know what kind of reading experience I can expect. I am greatly grieved when I find I have been deceived.
The book I was holding on the night of my epiphany had an embossed dust jacket that was a particularly good tactile experience. The graphic layout depicts a quilt border I might someday like to make, and the author’s name is in gold letters. It must be rather grand to see your name on a book cover in gold letters. Inside the cover are the end papers. I love end papers. In the case of this particular book, the end papers show quilt blocks from the story that could easily be crafted into a real quilt. Other favorite end papers have maps of the locale of the story, or genealogical charts of the families in the story. The marbled endpapers of old books are often almost meditative in their undulations of color.
I suppose it is possible that e-books include endpapers, but they would look like just another page, and you would have to click or scroll to them, just like any other page. It’s just not the same.
Then there are the “bragging rights”. I suppose there may be some advantage to being able to read Fanny Hill in public without having the whole world know it, but if you are the sort of reader my son is (and I am), you kind of want the world to know if you are reading War and Peace, and not the latest installment of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. A friend who is often on the light rail purposely seeks out books with titles like The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, just for the amusement of her fellow travelers.
I thought this might just be a generational thing, but as the son and heir has not so much as suggested we get an e-reader, I asked him what he thought. He had no interest in getting one, so I asked him why.
“I like the ‘bookness’ of a real book. I like turning the pages, clicking to turn the page would be so lame.”
Not to mention, scrolling through pages makes me nauseous, flipping through pages doesn’t.
And where do the readers of e-books look for misplaced Important Pieces of Mail?
Do you have a favorite book cover? Is it an accurate indicator of what is inside?