More Pixels Spent on the E-Book Debate

I was an early adoptee of the iPod and have just upgraded my brick of a cell phone to a new, shiny iPhone.  I Twitter (@Tartitude), I’m on FaceBook, and I blog.  I don’t consider myself a Luddite by any means, but I am not enamored of e-books readers for several reasons:

1.  A primary sensibility for me is kinesthetic, so I’m one of those people who gets high on the smell of books, their heft, the texture of the page, etc.  That’s just who I am.  It’s never going to change.

2.  My to-be-read pile is so ridiculous that the need for an urgent book upload at 3 AM just isn’t gonna happen.  Please!  Have we become a society so used to instant gratification that we require this service?  And if you truly believe that this convenience buys you happiness, I suggest you spend a little time reading the positive psychology research.  “Pleasure” and “happiness” are two very different beasts.

3.  I am not going to spend $400 for each of the four people in our family, understanding that there is a built-in obsolescence for a single-purpose device and that they all will have to be replaced in a few years.  This has huge implications for our environment – I’m thinking e-waste, the mining for rare earth metals, groundwater contamination from mercury…

4.  I’m not going to spend $9.99 for a book and then not be able to share it with my daughter, pass it on to a friend/library/seniors’ center. 

Yes, I’m frugal.  I shop in Good Will at times, I donate to Good Will often.  I believe that one man’s garbage is another’s treasure and it physically pains me to throw out items that still are useful,  just not for me.  I also purchase my music through iTunes at times, but that’s different; there are four iPods that share the music and as far as I understand, I own it.  I haven’t just paid to rent it longterm.

5.  I love my local library as a place of community.  I am buzzed by the mere act of walking into my local bookstore.  What are these gathering places going to look like in the future?  Maybe no one else will care, but the day I go in to the library and it looks like an Internet café will be the day I’ll shed bitter tears.  Oh, I’ll survive, but my kids will have to put up with tales about The Good Old Days.  Do you seriously want to put them through that? 

6.   The ethical issue about censorship, as exemplified in the recent Amazon debacle.  If you haven’t read this article, do.  It summarizes the issue significantly better than I can.  The issue isn’t about whether Amazon deleted illegally obtained e-books, it is that they can

There is a parallel here, in my mind, to the lessons of the environmental movement.  Genetic diversity is being lost at a staggering rate because of mono-cultures, behemoths like Monsanto, and climate change.  The environmentalists have responded proactively by opening up seedbanks, like this

So my question is this:  if we proceed with e-readers and give one or two giant corporations the ability to control access, ranking, and availability, are we going to need a book bank one day?  And if so, can I be the chief librarian?  And can my domain look like this library in Sydney?

Mitchell Library, Sydney (#24) by Christopher Chan.

Gorgeous, huh?

But those are my opinions and they are fluid.  What say the rest of you about e-book readers, censorship, and our ability to trust corporate entities to protect our culture and heritage?

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8 thoughts on “More Pixels Spent on the E-Book Debate

  1. What a fabulous picture!

    Okay, as to the debate. I think ebooks are a great thing. I do read them sometimes, but I like to have actual books around. Still, this may not always be feasible. Some day, when houses are selling again, we’re going to want to move someplace smaller. That will mean getting rid of some of our thousands of books — as in passing them on, not as in really “getting rid of.”

    I also donate a lot to GoodWill, and I buy a lot of books at secondhand bookstores and at library used book sales. Those are great ways to find out-of-print favorites.

    When I was young, I did pretty much all my reading in libraries (or reading library books). Now, I like to own my favorites, but I will ALWAYS support libraries.

    I think there are good reasons to have books in many forms, but I doubt that any of the new forms will ever completely replace traditional books. As long as people are reading, though, I’m not going to worry too much about how they access their books.

  2. I love you.

    I’m old-fashioned. To me there’s no greater pleasure than sitting down on a rainy Sunday afternoon (not that they ever happen in this God-forsaken place) with a new book in my hands or an old favorite, I’m not picky.

    I don’t think I’d get the same pleasure out of a book if I read it on a glowing screen.

    However, if the end-result of E-books means that more people will read for pleasure then it’s a good thing. As long as I can still get my hands on paper books I’m good to go. 🙂

  3. Wow, I really have nothing to add. You summed up my thoughts very well.

    I love my paper books. I love “decorating” with bookshelves that are stuffed to over-flowing. I love the way I can physically flip ahead or go backward with paper, something that just doesn’t seem possible with an e-reader. Plus, I know the way my brain stores information, and that very physical-ness of a book helps. I don’t think people process information on a screen the same way they do it it’s on a page – why hard copy edits help reveal issues.

    Hmm… for someone who didn’t have much to add, I managed to add. Oh, and I WANT to visit that library! Although, this library, from where I went to college, will forever live in my heart as what a library should look like:

  4. Becke, I guess I already pass on about 90% of my books, but yes, I get your point about clutter. And I hope you’re right about the paper books always being available. With the way my local library and bookstore are headed, I’m not entirely sure about that. But agree – whatever gets people reading is good.

    Sue, I love you too. 🙂 Seriously, you guys have all been so nice. Here I thought I’d take a pounding for being backward-thinking and I couldn’t be more wrong.

    Tracey, I deleted one of those double links, but boy – beautiful pictures! We don’t have any libraries like that in my city. And I’m exactly the same about the need to find passages by physical location. I have honestly tried some e-books on my computer, and I just get lost in programs like Adobe.

  5. I love books, but the practicalities of ebooks has won me over. I can’t count how many books I’ve had to give away over the years because of frequent moves, space constraints, etc.

    Reference books work best in physical form, since I need to flip back and forth through them, but reading for pleasure works great on a reader.

    Another advantage of an ereader is being able to change the print size. As my eyesight continues to erode I can adjust the print larger to compensate.

    Money not withstanding, I would love to own a library just like your photo!

    1. It is a beautiful library, isn’t it, Laura?

      Which e-reader do you have, and for how long, if you don’t mind me asking?

      I also hear your point about clutter. I’ve been in the same home for sixteen years. My husband and kids are voracious readers too, so I shudder at the thought of moving.

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