More on a topic that gives me the grumps

Posted: June 24, 2008 in Reading Habits

This from The WashingtonPost.com:

” Amazon ( NSDQ: AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos has been famously tight lipped on anything to do with data on the Kindle. Just about the only hard stat ever given out is that of the 125,000 titles the company sells in both physical and electronic forms, the electronic ones account for 6 percent of unit sales. Other than that, it’s been all speculation. We’re not expecting any hard numbers for a long time, so here’s some more speculation: Pacific Crest analyst Steve Weinstein argues that global e-book sales at Amazon could reach $2.5 billion by the year 2012. ”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/23/AR2008062300925.html

Okay, is this just speculation, someone talking out of his or her posterior, or is this really going to happen?

Everyone I know – or almost everyone, save my tech loving husband – poo poos the idea of electronic books ever taking over the paper and glue variety we know and love. There is nothing like the physical book. Nothing. It’s perfect as it is. It’s what the egg is to protein, the banana to… well, to a lot of good stuff.

My house is crammed full with books. I have so many we could never afford to buy enough shelves to hold them all. They’re overflowing everywhere, in every space with room to stack a few of them. The nightstand next to my bed is crammed with them, there are piles on the floor next to my bed I’m forever tripping over. There’s a pile on the fireplace hearth, another beneath the family room table… My books abhor a vacuum.

In the back of my car there are four bags of books I’ve been meaning to donate to the library – I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. And it’s been at least six months. My reason? Parting with them is such sweet sorrow.

I’ve already made the first round of donations. About four years ago I cleared out hundreds upon hundreds of books – once I stopped online bookselling – donating them all to the library. Now I’m starting to dig into the ones I was reluctant to give away the first time around, the ones I put my hands on but couldn’t quite bear to give away.

I think I’ve admitted it here before – or maybe it was on my other blog – I have bought back books I’ve donated to the library while at used book sales. Yes, I have bought back my own books. Paying for them twice seemed a very small price to have them back where they belong.

I’d never have that experience with the Kindle. I’d never have that attachment, that stab of happiness I feel in the pit of my stomach when I bring home more books, or when I drag a finger over the bindings of the books I own. I’d be worried about dropping the damned thing, and I’d never take it into the tub with me, I’d never look at it lovingly thinking “this is mine.” The Kindle is not a thing of beauty, not a joy to behold.

Maybe ebooks are more efficient. Maybe they’re cheaper than buying paper and glue new books, but for one thing they’ll never have every book in that format. And for another, no electronic medium can ever replicate the book. Nothing else can replace the soothing comfort of curling up with a good read, turning pages quickly if it’s a thriller, or more slowly if it’s a poetically written work of literary fiction, feeling the paper between your fingers. Caring about ebooks is like preferring robots to living, breathing humans. It’s not organic. It has no soul.

It may happen. In the publishing world’s zeal to improve the bottom line there may come a day they’ll stop publishing real books and make them all electronic. I just hope I’m not here to see it. That would break my heart.

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