Books, Media

A Book or eBook?

E-reader and Paperback Book. Photo: IslesPunkFan

I used to believe in the humble book. There was a time I was certain that nothing could come between us and our fistfuls of musky scented yellow pages; that undeniable sense of character imparted by time and the tender hands of countless companions. Somehow I was sure that no matter how technologically advanced we became, nothing could possibly replace an authentic and unassuming hard cover.

There’s something deeply romantic about the book; a physical collection of words and sentiments, whose compilation is tangible evidence that as a people, we have existed. Through the book we happily accept the love and laughter, tears and tragedies of others; a testament to the human condition. Then when we’re done, we pass it on so that those words that shook us might wake the senses of a new reader. In that moment when we hand it over, we send our own story wordlessly with it; an unspoken yet undeniable shared history that can be sensed in the margins of every page. The happy knowledge that the leaves you now turn have been caressed by some number of others, binding you with your humanity, like the linking fingers of a best friend.

I was wrong, of course. I have always been, above all else, embarrassingly naive. How green to imagine that, while the rest of the world became increasingly clinical, uninterested in their brother and the intimacy of breathing someone else’s air, the defenceless book could survive. No one wants to own something that’s been handled by an unfamiliar other any more. We want to live apart. Possess our own things. Selfishly believe the world is ours; that we are the only one. Populations are booming, but even as we’re forced to dwell on top of one another, moving ever higher into an unconquered sky, we are slamming tight our shutters.

Needless to say, there will always be stories. We’re too governed by ego to let the story die; we see ourselves in every narrative and our sense of self importance is affirmed. But books and stories, those words that were once synonymous, are about to be broken apart. Driven by our need for efficiency, we can now download our own version of the texts we wish to read. These days we need not even leave the house. What a blow of cruel irony when the interwebs adopted the phrase connectivity.

Like so many things, it’s come to pass that every book you own can be uniquely yours; you read it once but do not pass it on. The pages are ever crisp and white; untarnished as a surgeon’s scalpel. But the romance is gone. In our hunger for perfection and instant gratification we have sliced off and slaughtered the glorious romance.

It’s been estimated that within this decade, electronic books will have completely replaced commercially available paper publications. There are of course, many advantages to the electronic book. Affordability is one; for the time being, they are certainly cheaper. Owning an electronic reader also means you can have countless titles at your finger tips. Many people are also citing the environmental card, claiming that the e book is better for the environment. I’m not sure I buy this one. While I’ve done exactly no research on the subject, I can’t believe the process involved with constructing these little gadgets is particularly sparing on the fossil fuels.

What do you think about our move toward electronic books?

Have you taken the leap to e-reader?

How do you feel about the humble hard cover being made redundant?

About michelle

Michelle McKay is a twenty something year old English teacher turned free lance writer, located in Melbourne, Victoria. As well as collecting opinions, Michelle enjoys wine and art, drinks too much tea and likes her music really loud. You can read more of Michelle's musings at her weekly updated website:


6 thoughts on “A Book or eBook?

  1. I bought a Kindle a year ago and I love it. I read everything from Charles Portis to David Brin to J.R.R. Tolkien. I have found being able to take all of my books with me on a handy slim device wonderful. However, I still have all of my Tolkien books on my bookshelf, and each year when the last day of school passes (I’m an English teacher) I pull old musty Lord of the Rings down off the shelf and read it cover to cover. I have published to Kindle and several other e-readers, but I always use Createspace for a paperback copy as well. Paperbacks will never lose out to the e-reader, but both of them are happy mediums for me.

    Posted by rogerdcolby | April 7, 2012, 8:39 pm
  2. for me, and many others, paper books will never die. nothing can replace the thrill of leafing through tattered and yellowed paperbacks on the shelves of a charity shop, never knowing what you may find, but very often being happily surprised. you don’t get that with a kindle and you never will.

    Posted by neiljohnsonarts | April 8, 2012, 12:50 am
  3. In a relatively short space of time I can see books going the same way as music – the most popular consumption will be digital, but, like vinyl records, there will always be a market for the art in it’s “original” form.

    The other parallel with music will be the democratisation that digital distribution will bring. is already the equivalent of Bandcamp – upload your own work and set a price. However, while the highest ideals of artistic freedom will be upheld there will also be a slew of unmitigated drivel.

    Rather neatly, this leads to the final analogy – the blog. Some blogs wither and die under the vanity of their own self importance while the ones that truly connect, serve a purpose, reflect an interest, etc. will succeed.

    I think it will probably be the same for the e-book, albeit with the assistance of the marketing arm of a more digitally savvy publisher. Because let’s be honest – if there were a new e-poetry collection published by Faber and Faber, it would probably get more attention than one published by the unknown author alone. And as the proliferation of e-books continues, it’s fairly obvious that the major publishing houses are already at the party jostling for the fattest slice of cake.

    Because like Kurt Vonnegut said, “Business Is Business” 🙂

    Posted by Jase | April 8, 2012, 6:17 am
  4. e-books can never giv u the feeling! the enigma u feel wen u see a book

    Posted by habibadanyal | April 8, 2012, 2:52 pm
  5. I am an ebook reader. The ability to take my whole book case with me and to have a lightweight reading is lovely.
    As soon as I learned to use the ebook I was sold. Heavy books, reading around the corner as to not to break the spine and slightly too small lettertypes all gone!
    I am at the point, if a book is not available by ebook I won’t read it. Exception for those lovely large picture books of course that are not for reading, just for flipping through

    Posted by Gilraen | April 8, 2012, 3:29 pm
  6. Hmmmm Let me share with you a recent experience whilst reading a real book on a train.

    Drooping spears of Buddleia smack wetly against the train windows as we trudge towards the city, the carriage filled with the usual ipod tinutus and broadsheet origami. In the corner a fat girl metronomically fellates a twix, no hint of enjoyment on her face. We pull into Sevonoaks and an out of breath man collapses into the seat opposite me, blasting me intermittantly with hot gusts of roquefort halitosis. Partly in defence of my nostrils I raise the book I am reading so that it covers my face, it’s a little unnatural but by far the lesser of two evils. The nose shield I’m reading is an old fashioned paperback with a cover and everything. The woman on the cover looks as if she might practice wicca and stalk Helena Bonham-Carter but she is a lovely writer, capturing a childhood that is painfully familiar to me. After a few minutes the machete breath has calmed a little or perhaps I am now so used to the smell that it no longer affects me. I lower the book a little and reveal the concerned eyes of Mr Gum Disease, head tilted in sympathy. He looks a bit like John Prescott but his accent is embarrassed Glaswegian. He nods at the book entitled “How to be a woman” and asks “You no seriously thinkin a choppin off yar winky?”. Suddenly the carriage is quiet, faces appear over the tops of seats, confectionary blowjobs cease and an air of expectation fills the silence. I look at the figure before me, part Bannatyne part gingivitis.

    “I’m seriously considering buying a fucking Kindle” I reply.

    Hope this help Michelle………..

    Posted by James Conmy | April 10, 2012, 10:58 am

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