Sunday, November 27, 2011

Will ebooks have the same resonance?


One of the things I like most about having books on my shelves is that it takes me back to the time I read them. It puts them in my hand again and brings them to mind. I wonder if reading a book on an ereader will have nearly this effect. Ten years from now, will you look fondly back on the December you read The Ranger by Ace Atkins if you read it on an ebook? Will it stick with you the same way? Would Miami Purity have been the same in an anonymous gray box? What about The Great Gatsby, Double Indemnity.

I think the answer is no. The physicality of print books keeps them fresher for us. Even if the book is not in your home right now, it's in a bookstore, a library, somewhere you'll be reminded of it.

I think there is a place for ereaders, but don't throw the baby out.

I am sad to think that our grandchildren will probably never bond with books they way we have. Our disposable society marches on.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think you're right, though until I actually get an ereader I can only guess. I know there are people (Roger Ebert, Bill Crider) who seem to be able to remember exactly where and when they bought every book in their collection (not me). I don't think an ebook will be the same.

Jeff M.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

An e-book is not the same.

Richard R. said...

Welcome back.

I agree, but it's something that those who only read books in the electronic format, and that number is growing every day, won't have any awareness of. I'm sorry that for them it will just be something they read, probably of not much greater importance as a magazine article. I also think the physical handling of a print book encourages the reader to finish reading the book, whereas on the e-reader, especially the multifunction ones, it's just another icon. **Sigh**

Joe Barone said...

We all relate to books differently. For me, I relate to the story, and even then, I only clearly remember the stories of a few of the books I've read.

I am actually able to have more books at hand because of ebooks than I would on shelves. We live in a small two-bedroom retirement home. We don't have a lot of room for physical books.

Personally, I don't see the issue. Let each person do whatever rings his or her bell.

Charles Gramlich said...

I don't know. I think you are right in most cases. I love those memories, of where I was when I was reading a certain book. And I don't remember anything I read on kindle while I was on my most recent vacation. but it could be the quality of the book over the delivery.

George said...

I can remember where I bought a book important to me...mostly, used books. But, as used bookstores disappear, those books and the opportunities to make fond memories vanish. Has anyone had a memorable experience with an ebook? I've yet to hear about one.

Heath Lowrance said...

I think that, because we grew up with actual books, our sense of how important they are is maybe out of proportion to the rest of the world. I'll always prefer real live books as opposed to e-books, but I've resigned myself to the fact that the world is changing. It's not better or worse, it's just different. So readers will relate to the things they read in a slightly different way-- they'll STILL be relating. It's always sort of sad to see one way end and another begin, but it's not the end of reading and loving the written word, not by a long shot.

Mike Dennis said...

Excellent point, Patti!

I do find ebooks harder to recall for some reason. The plot, characters, prose...it all becomes vaporous once I finish the book. And I'm talking about books I really liked. I don't know, I think it's because they're out there in e-land somewhere. Like they don't e-xist.

Not that I can remember everything about every print book I've ever read, but they do stick with me a little bit more than ebooks. Your very thoughtful post sent a jingle-jangle through me and I felt compelled to respond.

Brian R. Sheridan said...

I am so torn. Like many of you, I remember where and when I bought almost all of my book (most of which I still have) but I also like my Kindle. There are books that I want a hard copy of - to treasure the type face, layout, dust jacket - while others I am more than happy to download and just read for its content. When I go somewhere, it is also nice not have to pack 4 or 5 books (I read several books at a time) but just toss the Kindle in my bag. I hope books never go away but I think ebooks are not so evil - except for the fact that you can't buy cheap, used ebooks.

James Reasoner said...

I think this is actually two different issues. It's probably too soon to say for sure, but I don't think I'm going to remember buying e-books like I remember where I bought a particular paperback in 1966. However, a couple of weeks ago I spent most of a day in the ER with my father-in-law, and since I'd grabbed my Kindle on the way out the door, I'm pretty sure I'm going to remember which book I was reading on it while we were waiting for all his tests to come back, the same way I remember which paperback I was reading while my daughter was having major surgery when she was 18 months old. I believe that part of the experience will be the same for me, regardless of the delivery system.

Bill Crider said...

I wish I could remember where I bought every book, but memory is getting dim these days. Like James, I can remember what I read at certain times. A prime hospital example is Dick Lochte's BLUE BAYOU, which I read one long night sitting in the hospital with my mother. Though now that I think about it, I wonder if I'd remember it as well if I'd had Kindle back in those days.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Good point. Some occasions just seal a memory. I remember Heidi because I was reading it when I came down with pneumonia and it gave me nightmares. Maybe I wouldn't remember so vividly otherwise. But I think seeing those covers on my shelves day after day, cements it to some degree that Kindle reading won't match.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

An angle to all this is also how a regular book inspires conversation where an e-reader does not.

I have been taking the laptop up with me to the hospital as well as a book once the immediate crisis passed. This way Sandi can work on her e-mail when she feels up to it. Nobody ever asks what we are doing with the laptop where I have the Kindle for PC too.

But, every single nurse and several different doctors thathave come into her room have asked what I am reading (FEAST DAY OF FOOLS by James Lee Burke). That has led into wide ranging discussions of books, authors, my blog, reviews, etc. So much so, two different nurses on other floors came by strictly to talk books yesterday because they heard about me and had checked out the blog.

Does it translate into sales for the authors or more readers for me? I have no idea. But, I don't think the same conversations are as easily sparked off with an e-reader.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Books do tend to seem/look/read more anonymously on an ereader. And I see less and less people reading at all at airports. They are all fooling with their phones now.

Chris Rhatigan said...

I'm sure my grandchildren will be bonding with their alien-robot overlords.

Chris Rhatigan said...

To me it's a double-edged sword -- yep, people don't bond with books as much. But I find e-books easier to read, more accessible, cheaper, and I don't add to all the crap that I will inevitably have to throw into boxes and move.

Also, almost all the e-books I'm buying are not available as physical books. I'm not going to pay $10 for, say, Double Indemnity when I could get at the bookstore for $6.99 (or, more likely for me, take it out from the library).

Deb said...

I don't think I'll ever be able to "curl up with a good e-book" the way I do with a physical book. It may sound strange, but I'm a very tactile person and I think the physical feeling of touching the book as I'm reading reinforces what I'm reading.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Tactility (word?) is definitely a big part of it. I like to touch as much of the world as possible.
But some friends now, and these are older people, do not want to accumulate any more books and ebooks are perfect for them. So perhaps both ends of the spectrum will be the big buyers.

michael said...

So you all are saying the format, not content, is what you fondly remember?

I am 57 years old and had a book in my hands before I could crawl. What makes books important to me is the words, not the cover, not the smell, not the feel, not the way it looks buried in a sea of other treasures.

I prefer the e-book format but will still buy print because it is the content that I will never forget.

I guess I am more a reader than collector, despite still owning enough print books to fill a library.

Clair Dickson said...

For me, it's about the story. I have no idea where or when I got most of my books. And I don't care because to me it's all about the story.

As for e-readers, as a lover of reading (not necessarily books, but just reading!) and a writer, to me the most important thing is that people are reading. If using an e-reader means a person will read more than they would without, then that's the most important thing, imho. (And a bigger bonus is that they're reading instead of watching mindless crap on TV. ;-)

Richard R. said...

I'm with Deb on this one.

Tim Mayer said...

A great book is a great book no matter how you read it. I've read GATSBY and MELMOTH on my e-reader. I like the feel of real books, but the e-reader makes reading them easier.

Dan_Luft said...

You may be dealing with a specialized readership in your blog of people who have bonded more with books than most other people.

Certainly no problem reading the book. The story feels just as real to me on a reader but I think a book is a little like a vinyl record.

As a kid I knew where to drop the needle down at just the right moment in the song where the guitar solo started. For me, touching the grooves was a little like touching the music. I got used to the pops on my own copy the same way I got used to the yellowing of an older book. MP3s are great for convenience but I still feel like I'm listening to the radio.

THe memory of an e-book is a lot like the memory of a library book.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Good analogy, Dan. Out of sight, out of mind. Maybe my problem is I have yet to read a long mainstream novel on an ebook. So far anthologies and crime fiction.