Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Book Experience: (electronic or paper?)

Kindles and iPads are increasingly threatening the traditional place of bookstores and libraries. For all its power and process, there are some things technology can never replicate fully. Take the humble bookstore. I will rather sit for hours in a room full of books on bookshelves, instead of four walls with only my Kindle or e-reader filled with a digital collection of thousands of books. I can smell a real book but not a Kindle. I can flip and feel the difference of each book I flip, but as far as the Kindle is concerned, every book feels and flips the same way. I can hold the book, dog-ear it, choose a nice bookmark companion, and to use the book to reserve my seat in the library. Not the Kindle. Someone may steal it.

I read a lot. I work a lot with computers. I have e-reader apps on my computing devices, all loaded up with books. Yet, nothing beats the humble book. I do not have to touch a button to search for the book I want. I do not have to make sure the device is sufficiently charged before use. All I need is to stand next to the bookshelf and browse. Nothing beats the touch and feel of a real book. It brings back memories of the trouble I have taken to purchase that book. It conjures up ideas on what else I can do with the book.

The eBook is not so. Can I lend it to a good friend? Can I use my highlighter to make notes on it? Can I write a special message on the book, and ask my wife to read it, with lots of love? No. There are some things a Kindle cannot do: Replicate the traditional book reading experience.

What can we do? Three immediate things come to mind.

First, support your local bookstore. Do not let the price do all the talking. As much as possible, buy books from a bricks and mortar book company. Don't forget the small second hand bookstores too.

Second, form a book club to talk about books. This helps cultivate the reading habit for both printed as well as digital books. Talk about it. Market it. Publicize it. With greater publicity, it benefits both printed as well as digital content providers.

Third, read a book. If you like a book that you have read in the digital format, why not get a printed copy for keeps?

Long live books! Especially printed books.


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