I have loved to read since I learned how. I remember the summer I was 10 years old. I walked a couple of miles each day alone to the library. I devoured the books there like a starving man given a steak. I worked my way through the young adult books and right into the adult fiction section. John Irving was one of my favorite authors. For me, at that point, reading was a solitary joy.
As I’ve gotten older, reading has become a much more social outlet. I have found friends who share my taste, to a large measure, in books. We exchange our books regularly, get together in a casual “book-clubby” kind of way to discuss ones that really moved or entertained us. Sometimes, one of us finds a treasure and it’s with great excitement that we say, “Hey, you’ve got to read this!”. Other books get set aside while we all eagerly read the discovery.
One of my friends with whom I exchange books regularly talked me into getting an e-reader. We both bought Nooks a year or two ago. My Nook and I did not immediately fall in love. We casually dated for many months. I looked for free downloads first and read them. When I saw that it was still satisfying to read on the Nook, I tentatively bought a new book. By now, I can recite all the things I like about my Nook: small and easy to carry, font size can change with eye fatigue or if the Nook is on my exercise machine, the ease to switch over to the web or to check email, and the ability to look up a word I don’t know as I read.
But there is what I don’t like – the inability to share my books. This is a BIG negative for me. Yes, I know, there are some that are “lendable” but there aren’t many, they’re never new releases and the restrictions (only 1 loan and only for 14 days) make it a fairly useless factor. that is, unless you do the only obvious alternative and actually swap Nooks for a few weeks and read through your friend’s recent book purchases.
Here’s another thing an e-book can never do – speak out from beyond the grave. I have books that have been passed down through the family. Inside, there are notes in the margins from generations before me who read them and were moved to comment, mostly histories and Bibles but also some fWhen I hold them, I can touch the handwriting of my great-grandmother or my grandfather. I can pass these along to my children in time and we will have them with us far into the future. They are a comfort to me. Show me how this will ever happen with an e-book.
So how do I reconcile my reading habits? I will never buy a book that I feel I am likely to want to re-read (based on author, topic, or reviews, for example) in the e-book format. I save the Nook for fluff books, experimental reads or if I’ll be in a situation like travel where I might want the Nook to serve more than one function to cut down on electronics I have to take. I can never experience the feeling of looking at my full book shelves in the living room with so many “old friends” waiting for me there with e-books.
Let’s face it. E-books aren’t really books, they are just purchased digital content. Maybe eventually e-books will develop technology or relaxed restrictions to make e-books more like real books. Maybe generations behind me while never see an actual book so won’t know what they’re missing. I think that will be a much greater loss than when typewriters and buggie whips were phased out. Books contain a sense of history and culture as they are passed along and read in a way that a book saved in digital format to a device never will.