Thursday, June 30, 2011

Paper or plastic?

It’s really not fair to say I “hate” e-readers.  After all, I’m coming to you through the magic of electronic media.  But my response is usually a little reactionary whenever someone mentions their fondness for their Kindle. 

I see the value of a Kindle, Nook, what-have-you if your lifestyle requires large expanses of time spent in a moving vehicle.  But they are not, and can never be, a proper substitute for a book made from paper.

A quote from the legendary Ray Bradbury in which he addressed a writer’s conference some years ago sparked this train of thought. 

‎"You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads."

This is a man after my own heart.  A large part of the appeal of a paper book is in the smell.  New or old, doesn’t matter, one whiff takes me back to childhood when my public library was magical – to adolescence when I discovered Poe, Shakespeare and Arthur Conan Doyle, devouring every Sherlock Holmes story.  Twice.

I’m also one of those crazies who lends her books out to friends (but only the ones I REALLY trust) and keeps a list of who has what, so I can be sure to have it returned.  I have, in fact, snuck into a former friend’s house to pinch a book I had loaned her after she insisted she had already returned it.  And I do, on occasion, return to books I have read to look up a passage that affected me, quote a passage that inspired me, or prove my husband wrong. 

Printed words on paper seem so much weightier as well.  Perhaps it’s the prejudice of the internet, where Wikipedia not only contains some wonderful discoveries, but honest mistakes and manipulations of willful ignorance.  Scammers and spammers abound, and Truth in Advertising laws seem impossible to enforce. 

No, e-readers can never hold a place in my heart.

And yes, I see the irony in that.


  1. I love this post. My husband gave me a Kindle last Valentines Day. I screamed with outrage. Not only was it a terrible romantic gift, but I had told him repeatedly I didn't want a Kindle. I wouldn't use a Kindle.

    Fast forward 4 months. How did I ever live without a Kindle? The full basement of my home is lined with floor to ceiling shelves to hold my books I can't get rid of. For years I have had books piled on every available surface in the house. Whether it is literature or thriller, I keep them. Under protest I took about 500 to donate to the local library a few years ago, but I was miserable about it.

    The Kindle offers instant gratification. Want to read it? No ordering from B&N. No going to the book store. Just click. It's yours! Since I read 3 or 4 books a week, this works really well for me. (But I still will keep my old books because I love them.)

  2. I got a Kindle for Christmas a couple of years ago, and tried to be fair - I read one complete book on it. That was it for me. If I had to travel a lot, I'd manage to get used to it. But I don't. And I won't. :)

  3. Lee Ann, would you mind if I post this on my Facebook? I really think the article rocks!

    It took me a couple of books to get the "hang' of it. I kept pushing the wrong places accidentally at first. (Coordination is not my middle name.) Still, I really do love it and it kind of makes me sad that I do. I revere books much like you do.

  4. By all means, Linda - I'd be glad for you to put this on your Facebook page!