Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What Santa Didn't Bring...

by Augusta Scattergood

I was relatively good this year. There was no lump of coal in my Christmas stocking. But there was no eBook reader in there either. And I’m OK with that. For now.

Full disclosure here. I co-own an IPad, but sharing is not always easy when it comes to reading books all day long. When I read my first eBook, the experience was mostly positive so I’m sure my own private reader is not too far in my future. While I’m waiting, I’ll just keep stumbling over piles of books all over my house and dreaming up reasons I don’t really need the device.

Truly, I don’t think the world is ever going to go completely paperless. At least not in my lifetime. And I certainly hope not. There are things I would miss about books if they all become electronic:

1. Book Spying. (Come on, people, you know you do it.) I do it and I’m not the only one. A recent blogpost about checking out your fellow NYC subway riders proves it’s a popular way to snoop. I do most of my spying on airplanes and in airports, where I’ve spent more time than the average reader. Will I be able to Book Spy closely enough to figure out what the guy on his way to Prague has planned for the trip? What’s that professorial gentleman in seat 16C across the aisle reading? Can I cast my eyes over to the woman at the doctor’s office and decipher the title of the large print plain text eBook? I think not. At least for now, I submit that my fellow Book Spies and I need paper. We need covers. We need author photos on the backs of our books. We cannot properly spy on eBook people.

2. I'd miss going back and forth in a story, thumbing the pages, reminding myself what I’ve forgotten. I tried that with my eBook. Scott Turow’s Innocent, written in multiple voices and rolling time periods, took a tad longer than the average new hardback should have taken to get going. I fault my IPad for this.

3. And what about reading on takeoff and landing? I cannot give this up. When I first heard a flight attendant announce, “Turn off your books for takeoff,” I knew I’d never be able to travel without a trusty, non-E, detective novel. I read from takeoff to landing, and until they allow me to keep my book turned on, I’ll stick with my paperbacks. I suspect this day isn’t far in the future. And it sure will be easier to carry an eReader in my carry-on than to lug 2 or 3 books along.

3. As far as my own favorite genre, kids’ books go? I used to think I’d never go over to the electronic side to read kids’ picture books. Not so sure this is still a concern since Steve Jobs announced all the color pictures available in his IBook store. Ditto the new color Nook. I may have to rethink this concern. And older kids, for sure, have embraced eReaders. A recent quote from an industry professionals at Random House -- "[Kids] are going to want to move from platform to platform. The most important platform is going to remain the book."
The book, in whatever form.

To tell the truth, there are more reasons to buy one of these cute little babies than not to buy. My sister just told me how she couldn’t get into her novel, late in the evening, and voila! She bought a new one, past midnight, with the click of a button. My daughter has canceled her print newspaper subscription. My friend tells me how she loves her eReader, especially for those heavy non-fiction books she craves.
 EBook prices are down, the inventory is up. And it’s tempting to imagine losing those hardback book towers that seem to grow while I sleep. Having a clean desktop, void of books with titles like Plot and Structure, Between the Lines, and Creating Character Emotions, would be nice. Very nice.

So I don’t envision a paperless world. I'd miss my special autographed books.
And I love my cookbooks, even though when I need a recipe, I'm all over Epicurious. I just like to look at the cookbooks and remember when I actually used them, when I cooked for recreation.

I think, for now,  it might be hard to review a book I’ve read only electronically. I’m not completely convinced I could properly critique a book without my stickie notes, beloved bookmarks, and yes-- even the horrible turned-down dog-ears.

But reading for fun? Hauling books through airports? I’m in.

I just hope the rest of the world doesn’t give up their bodice-ripping paperbacks. My Book Spying would be severely limited.

Augusta Scattergood blogs about reading, writing, and book reviewing over at http://www.ascattergood.blogspot.com/.

She'd love to know how many of you out there read eBooks, Book Spy, or think poorly of either activity. Do leave a comment here or on her Facebook page.


Susan Cushman said...

I love my Kindle for many reasons: lightweight for reading in bed, when holding up a heavy hardback actually hurts my wrists (I have arthritis); reading at the beach (no glare); and definitely for traveling. But like Augusta said, I was surprised that I had to turn my Kindle off during takeoff and landing. Does a Kindle really interfere with the plane's radar? Kind of hard to believe....

Katie said...

Technology is a wonderful thing but I love the feel of a new book in my hands, the quiet hush and smell of my library, the thrill of visiting my local store to purchase a new book, book signings etc. How the heck can you sign a Kindle for the love? Progress, great. Advances in science, wonderful. Computers, cellphones that can almost anything, amazing...but I wish they'd leave my books alone. If not leave them alone then at least don't do away with all paper books completely. Some of us won't like that.

Peggy Webb said...

I had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, from electric typewriter to computer. Many years ago.... Still, my typewriter never crashed and lost all my files. I engage reluctantly with all things electronic, so I can't imagine making my beloved reading such an aggravating activity.

Anna Michaels said...

I cherish my signed books. I adore underlining favorite passages and returning again and again to savor them. I love the feel of libraries and offices and reading nooks filled with shelf after shelf of great books. I love curling in fron of my Victorian gas heater with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate. No electronic books for me.

The Pulpwood Queen said...

Call me old school but to me a REAL book is the only way to go. My husband bought me an iPad last year and granted I could adjust the font size for my 54 year old eyes, I became all too quickly disenchanted with charging, turning off during take-offs and landings. Just another novelty to me like my 8-track player DYNOMITE that I had back in my 1970's college days.
I still have my first typewriter, a Smith-Corona that I received from Santa back in the 5th grade. Been collecting typewriters every since.
I still have my very first signed book, "The Cats of Shambala" by Tippi Hendren of Alfred Hitchcock "The Birds" fame. She even signed it with little birds and have been collecting ever since from signed copies of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird to all of Pat Conroy's, Ellen Gilchrist's oh I could go on and on. No technology will ever replace those things and the stories!
But for those who get turned on by NEW technology, more power to them and keeping up with all those cords, chargers and attachments. I for one if God forbid we ever lose electricity, will be set for life on reading and typing. Hey, it did happen one time hear for over a week. What would my iPad do for me then, huh?
My 54 age is showing so just label me OLD SCHOOL KAT as can't teach an ole Kat any NEW tricks when it comes to REAL reading of books!

Anonymous said...

I like having both. To me, it's kinda like a whisk and a blender. I use both all the time, and since I got my kindle last Christmas, I find I buy just as many paper books as I previously did. THe Pulpwood Queen can attest - I bought four when I stopped by her place this summer. So I'm likely spending more money on books (both paper and ebook) than in previous years. I also wanted to mention that as a romance writer, I'm loving that romance sales are on the increase. Southern women love a good romance; they're merely sensative about the covers. You know, just in case the pastor's wife stops by. Now they don't have to worry. Nice topic. Hope you get a kindle sometime soon.

Liz Talley

Anonymous said...

Oops! I misspelled sensitive. As a former English teacher, I HAD to correct myself :)

Liz Talley

Kat said...

sI was extremely dubious about e-readers, then I was given Kindle for my 50th birthday and I LOVE it. I still buy plenty of hardbacks, particularly authors that I collect. But I have expanded my reading list by at least 50%, especially with free downloads of authors that I'm not familiar with. And when I fall in love with their work, I go out and buy the rest of their work. And the convenience is unbeatable. My mother is having some major health issues, so I spend ALOT of time in hospital and doctor's office waiting rooms. I always have something to read now and if I finish a book while I'm waiting, I just download another! Kat

Lee Stokes Hilton said...

You've certainly started them talking with this one! I got the NEW Kindle for Xmas, and must admit how much I like it for those books my book group requires but that I don't want to have to stockpile on my shelves. But leafing back a few pages to re-read the introduction of a new character? Not the same electronically. And nothing will take the place of the smell of paper and hardback binding.

Augusta Scattergood said...

Thanks, everyone, for a lively conversation. I expect this may be a bit like smart phones in a year or two. "What do I want with that thing?" I told my husband when he thought I needed an IPhone. Now I can't imagine life without it. But I'm not losing my "paper" books any time soon! And I still have one old phone that will work if we have a power outage!

River Jordan said...

I didn't get the Kindle, Nook, or Ipad. OR the Mark Twain Autobiography Book I. I would have been delighted to get any reading gadgets, tools, or words. I do have a slight fear that an instant click to read will equate to a problem like a gambler who can't stop and leave the table. My addition to books - more than I can read and I'm still buying them and running up library fines!

Happy New Year!