The demise of the book?

book-9066Last week, after much hype, Amazon unveiled an updated version of their e-book reader, The Kindle. The new device is significantly thinner, marginally more aesthetically pleasing (although this is hardly an achievement worth boasting about given what an eyesore the previous model was) and has an improved battery life. My response: “So what.”

Last week a friend told me that he was seriously considering buying a Kindle. He seemed shocked that I disapproved, accusing me of being a luddite. I’m sorry (not quite sure why I’m apologizing- I think it’s a British thing), but there is something I find deeply troubling about the idea of reading a book on a screen. I can feel myself getting all nostalgic again.


My friend argued that the migration of the novel from the realm of analogue to digital was analogous to that of the newspaper, and said that that given how easily I had been persuaded to ditch my newspaper subscription and read it online instead, it wasn’t much of a stretch for him to imagine that I would soon be comfortable doing the same with a novel.

For me though, the analogy doesn’t work. Whilst I undoubtedly prefer sitting down with a copy of the Sunday paper (a cappuccino and a Full English breakfast for company) to craning over my laptop screen, because the news is being perpetually created, using an online news source allows me to be instantly be updated on the day’s happenings, rather than waiting half a day for the morning paper. It also helps that online news sources are free. Reading a book on The Kindle is far from free (The Kindle itself costs $359) and there isn’t the same requirement for immediacy with a novel.

“Just imagine a world with no books,” I told him. Isn’t there something rewarding about owning a book that has been on an adventure with you across continents? Books sit on your bookshelf like a bookmark to a time and place in your life, each crease and dent a reminder of a holiday or an argument. Books have a soul. Reading them is a tactile experience, from the smell of a new book, to the simple experience of turning the pages of a great read…(I can’t help but feel that this is sounding like I have a book fetish).

Ultimately, I want to be able to sit in a café, or in a park, or on the beach with a book in my hand; something that will survive wind and rain and sand and mud. Something that I can put on my bookshelf when I finish. The Kindle may save space, and perhaps one day money, but as far as I’m concerned, there is no substitute for the real thing.


5 responses to “The demise of the book?

  1. A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend. ~Author Unknown

    A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy. ~Edward P. Morgan

    The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it. ~James Bryce

    Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book. ~Author Unknown

  2. Those who can’t think, quote. ~ Anon

  3. I really hope not.

    What am I going to read for the 20 minutes around take off and landing?

  4. I support your love for the book. The beauty of turning a page, the history of ruffled edges, and just the general feeling of well-being I get from surrounding myself with books. However, I think the future will be filled with e-books. As they develop, they will be increasingly like books themselves but just without pages. They will be cheaper than buying new book after new book. They will save room and they will be better for the environment (at some point people will point fingers at paper book readers and shout out them for damaging the world). But what will happen to coffee table books?

    • I think that ultimately you are right Mr Hollis. The eventual shift to e-books seems inevitable, and perhaps the benefits to the environment and even our wallets that devices like the Kindle will eventually bring, will outweigh, or at least offset, any tactile enjoyment I get, and would miss out on, in leafing through at dog-eared book.

      It seems less certain, however, that the coffee table book will go the way of the novel. Most are filled with photos whose qualities can never be truly recreated on the screen of a device like the Kindle. Also, if coffee table books were redundant, how would we impress guests by giving them the impression that we are more cultured than we really are?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s