I guess I’m one of those few remaining readers who actually like to have a physical copy of a book. So now I’m gonna get all mystical on you and give you a couple of reasons why I like them. And maybe a couple of things that people mention that they like about them that I don’t really care about.
First, I don’t care about the smell. Book paper does, somehow, have a different odor than, say, a ream of copy paper from Office Max, but I have never grabbed a book and just held it to my nose and basked in the glory of the scent of the book. Nope, smell doesn’t do it for me.
Second, I don’t care about taking notes in the margins. Of course, I can do that easily on my Kindle. But I was never one to take a pencil or pen to a book. A lot of my books look as good after I read them as they did when I first brought them home from the hospital…er, ah, the bookstore. (Sorry, got books and babies confused for a second there.)
Now what I do like about them. I like the way they look on the shelf. I have a room in the basement, and I have far more books than I have shelf space. But the shelving I have…well, I really like the way that all of the Stephen King books look when I line them up. I like the way my Kellerman books look. My Asimovs and Cards and my Evanovichs and my Connellys and Wilsons and Cobens and Crais’s and Whites and Graftons and Clancys and Deavers and…well, you get the picture. They’re colorful and they just look elegant, to me at least.
I also like browsing in that room for books. There’s something about being surrounded by books that gives me a warm feeling. (Some readers probably know the feeling; it is the same feeling you get at the bookstore or the library…except with prettier books (no clear plastic dustcovers) and all books that I love or have loved at some point in my life.) Even searching through a box of paperbacks brings back memories as I come across forgotten books that I had a passionate fling with…oops, now I’m getting books mixed up with girlfriends…
I also like that I can resell them, easily lend them, donate them, and otherwise share them more easily (sometimes, the exception being sharing with my kids) than I can with an ebook. I feel like I have an asset. Like my 1969-1973 baseball cards, they don’t cost me anything sitting there, and they could return at least a few pennies. I consider the dollars spent to be money I spent on the story. Having the physical book is pure value in my view.
I like ebooks, too. I publish ebooks. I buy a lot of authors’ ebooks, especially independent authors. I certainly spend more on them today than I do on physical books, in part because they’re so easy to read and obtain and in part because I don’t have any more space for physical books (my kids are contributing to the p-book collection now, so even though we don’t have room, we continue to build the collection). I love the fact that I can cart my Kindle to a park or a restaurant (yes, when I get out of the office for lunch once a week, I take the Kindle and part of the attraction of going out is that I get an hour to read in peace). I love the fact that I can store hundreds of books on that device, and pick and choose what I feel like reading.
For example, I just finished two books by author Sean Hayden (one was a collection of short fiction with Jen Wylie, the other was a short novella called LADY DORN), and didn’t know what to read before starting Bobby Adair’s fifth SLOW BURN book, and I decided to read something that was on my Kindle for a long time. I found a book by Jon Jacks called WYRD GIRL, and it was a wyrd (weird) story that I didn’t love but I didn’t hate either. It was a quick read and I was glad to clear it from the queue. With a physical book, I probably wouldn’t have done that.
But I still love physical books. I like the way they look. I like the feeling of them when I’m reading. Even so, I have enough of them to last me many years. Ebooks are about the story, and while p-books are about more than that (at least for me), the story is what I really love.
Ah, the feeling of gazing with satisfaction upon rows of well-liked books. Some of ours are colorful, or elegant, or reminiscent of old friends or boyfriends or my parents (now gone). Some are organized by subject: Tom’s library room was completely until the married chapters of his life began. And then I have one narrow row of beloved books near my side of the bed: BBF’s (best book friends).
Yes, physical books (or the “dead tree” versions) are great in many ways. I’ve always been a book hoarder – buying far more than I could possibly read – and ebooks enable that habit pretty effectively. If you want something attractive to look at, buy the physical book (preferably a hardcover, for me – the paperbacks don’t look as good on the shelves, especially if they are well-read – the spines look creased and sort of ugly). If you want the story contained within the covers, an ebook works just as well!