Books that nag

A salon.com article by Emma Silvers (26, whose age enters into the point of the article) talks about her dislike of ebooks,a despite being of the gadget generation.  And she brings up an interesting point:

Out of every argument I’ve heard in favor of e-readers — no dead trees, portable research, “it’s the future,” etc. — my least favorite might be the central point of the thing: the fact that it allows you to choose from thousands of books at any given time. I simply don’t want that kind of potential for distraction. Would I have ever made it through any book by Herman Hesse if I’d had the choice, with a press of a button, to lighten the mood with a little Tom Robbins? Will anyone ever finish “Infinite Jest” on a device that constantly presents other options?

There is a physicality to a book that both contributes to the reading experience (studies are indicating that sensory stimulation–sound, touch–make the brain remember better, even in non-ADD readers: there’s a reason why teenagers listen to music while they do their homework) and  that demands attention.  An actual, physical to-be-read pile is present in a way ebooks are not.  If you don’t want to think about all those ebooks you paid $10 for and haven’t read, you just don’t look at your list.  To do that with real books would require a room with a perennially closed door, and even then, it would nag every time the homeowner cracked the door to toss in another purchase.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely give away books that I haven’t read at least a little of.  They sit on the shelf and glower at me from under their dust until I am finally driven by guilt, a year or two (or six) after I’d bought the thing (having read a review or met the author or loved the cover or…), and I snap ” Oh all right, then!” and take it down and open it.  More often than not, to discover that I was right to buy it in the first place.

Books on my bedside table get read, sooner or later.  Books in my e- reader?  Probably not.

Really, the Pope and Jewish mothers everywhere ought to come out against e- readers.  Guilt can be a powerful force for good.

Comments

  1. I’ve been using eReaders of various stripes for about 10 years or more. I’m no more (or less) distracted by the presence of other books in digital form than I am by the shelves of books lining the walls of my home. That’s like saying you can’t listen to an album of music on an MP3 player because of all the other albums.

    However, my eReader has one big advantage over any print book anywhere. I can carry onto an airplane my current book plus the 8 or 10 I might want to read while on vacation/traveling without having to pay the extra bag fee I’d pay if I packed them.

  2. I find the e-reader keeps me from having that tbr pile. No more splurge buying at the store. No more buying enough books for free shipping. Something is different when you aren’t burying a bunch of books in with clothes or other necessities and you simply don’t register the actual cost of them.

    I have boxes of books to keep, boxes currently sitting to be given away… the ereader only has those I want to read, and I finish the books before I buy another… unless they were free and then I collect them on the reader as well… I’m starting to get annoyed at this clutter and the fact I’m not reading them again anyways.

    My primary book source is still the library… my must have source is becoming the reader… ironically, I’m spending a lot less on books even with the convienience of the “toy”.

  3. I have an e-reader, and refuse to use it unless forced to (can’t really think of when that might happen-except maybe if I am travelling somewhere there are no bookstores and have finished the ones I brought with me?). I stare at a computer screen every day for work and at home (like now) – when I sit down with a book and sink into it’s world, I do not want to do it staring at a screen. Only books (electronic images are not books to me) that whose pages are made of paper, for me. And I agree – I am already ignoring the many ebooks on my reader, while steadily working my way through the pile on my nightstand.

  4. strawberry curls says:

    I’m right there with you, Sherri. With the weight restrictions and the cost of baggage I can no longer take the mutiple books (even paperbacks) with me when I travel so I don’t run out of reading material. With my Kindle I can carry my whole TBR pile and order more and have them almost instantly on my ereader if I run across a recommendation for a new author’s work, or I just get a hankering for something different. I still buy hardbacks and paperbacks from my favorite authors, so that hasn’t changed, but they stay home, the Kindle goes with me everywhere.

    –Alice

  5. I absolutely love actual books and will always prefer books over online reading. I still take books on vacation. However, having lived for several years in developing countries, I see the advantage of something like a kindle. If I ever lived somewhere like Nepal or Haiti again for an extended period of time, I would get a kindle. It would certainly be easier than having my mother ship me books every month (including the first 5 Mary Russells!)

  6. No e-reader in any shape or form for me. Apart from being a techno-phobe, I want to feel and smell the book (you know what I mean!). Though I agree with all of you, re: taking books away – this year, I took three, left two of them behind, bought 3 or 4 very old second-hand paperbacks (books I kept telling myself I would re-read some time!) from a convenient second-hand store in Guerneville, of all places and, again, left behind, and of course GOTH was just published. So – what do you all reckon – will I succomb eventually?

    Chris
    🙂

  7. Poetic Justice says:

    I would once have never considered getting an eReader; I love the feeling of physically turning pages just too much when I’m reading. However, I can now see the logic of getting one as I pack for college. 160 sq ft shared by three people just doesn’t have enough space for anything other than textbooks. I guess eReaders aren’t just for travel!

  8. Marianne McA says:

    I’m unconvinced by the argument that the medium matters – that a paperback copy of Hesse could not be discarded in favour of a passing Wodehouse, where the equivalent eVersion would be continually under threat. (Also, not being high-minded, I can do potential distraction at the drop of a hat – I could be weaned away from a less-than-gripping book to watch ‘Don’t tell the Bride!’ or to listen to my 17 year old’s latest gossip from school.)

    Perhaps the kind of reader you are comes into play: I don’t have To-be-read piles on the shelves or on the Reader – unread books make me twitchy. I have the book or books I’m reading, pretty much, and in between times I reread a lot.

    And I know the physicality of books is everything you say, but I’ve developed a real thing for the physicality of my Sony – it has it’s own allure.

  9. I’ve not yet used an eReader but can see that one would be great for travel and for people who aren’t near good library systems. I too prefer the feel of an actual book; furthermore, if I want to find a particular passage in a book, I can usually remember whether it was on a recto or verso page. I’m all for saving trees, but printing paper is a very small part of the uses we make of paper.

  10. I get just as distracted by a bright and shiny physical book as by an e-book! The arrival of a new Mary Russell at the library will make me instantly drop what I’m reading 🙂 but I always pick it up later.

    The two big advantages of my Kindle are: when I come across a reference to a classic book I haven’t read and want to, I can download it instantly and store it in the appropriate collection; and it goes everywhere with me because it fits into my purse.

    The bottom line is that if a book’s good, I’ll read it eventually even if I’m distracted by something else. Whether it’s a physical book or an e-book makes no difference to me; it’s the authors’s mind I’m connecting with, not the paper or the screen.

  11. I agree. I have an entire bookcase (though it is a small one) piled with books that I have yet to read. And they do nag at me. An electronic “pile” would never have the same effect. I find the same it true of written vs. electronic to-do lists.

    Casey

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