June 16, Monday evening -- Reading H.G. Wells

I'm back from my camping trip and am making the transition back to city life, where people read not just books, but e-books. I love it when I spot one of these! ...though Sony's "sexier than a librarian" advertising campaign still has me wondering if it was meant to insult or to exult the should-be-exulted librarian.

On the BART train platform

Reading The Food of the Gods and How it Came to Earth, a Science Fiction novel by H.G. Wells. It was published back in 1904, and now, over 100 years later, is still being read--would H.G. ever have thought it? I'm impressed.

It was the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House on the Prairie series that got her reading when she was a child. She moved on to mysteries, like Nancy Drew, after that, and Science Fiction.

The sign of a good book, she said, was if you're sad when you're done with it.

Would you like an e-book? The reader thought that men would really go for them, as it easily fits in a coat pocket. Unlike women, most men don't have purses to carry their books!


Rapunzel said...

Wasn't it HG Wells who wrote the Time Machine and wasn't there a part in there about books becoming extinct? Honestly I never read the book but remember the scene in the movie; as a little girl it terrified me! As convenient as e-books are, there's nothing like the good old paper version for me.

TootsNYC said...

Way back at the beginning of the Web, a young whippersnapper who was being touted as a Web guru said, "Nothing will ever replace the paperback book."

her reasoning: its size, its inexpensiveness, its lack of technology to break or batter to deplete.

I actually sort of agree with her.

I don't know if I'd like an e-book.

My purse just got stolen, and so I'm influenced by the expense and frustration of dealing w/ this to say, "no, I don't think so--what if I lose it?"

Marit said...

Oh NO! A book needs pages to turn, the smell of paper, the fun of leafing through it randomly. No way can I imagine myself reading a digital book with as much pleasure as a real one.

Jimmy P said...

Interesting, I, too, read the "Little House on The Prairie" series and ended up at Science Fiction, but it was the Hardy Boys for me. I've often thought of getting the e-book reader, but the price ($299, last I looked) was a big turn-off. And the e-books are almost the same price as a real book. I do like the idea of reading books that are out of print and hard to find, though.

Ms. B. said...

I'm with the ones who can't imagine having the book in hand. I have lots I've gotten at secondhand stores just so I can look at them in anticipation of reading them. There is so much more to books than just reading them; there's the love of having them!

Ms. B. said...

oops! Should say 'not having the book in hand'!

Scripter said...

I prefer traditional paper books, at least for now. While e-book readers like the Kindle may have their advantages, you cannot display your e-books on a shelf or loan them to a friend, nor can you turn their pages. Real books do not require batteries or recharging, only a little bit of light by which to read them.

Honour said...

I would LOVE an e-book. A publisher friend of mine says e-books will change everything - the role of the author, how we view them, how we connect to them ... soon authors can't just be authors, but need to be personalities... (connected to their e-books of course).

However, now raving about that, there is nothing like a good paperback, where you can fold the pages, squeeze it into one hand, hold it above your head, or - as everyone else seems to say - smell the pages.

Jen said...

I have an e-book reader (an older one, not the Sony or Kindle or anything fancy), it's about the size of a paperback and I love it to bits. I still prefer reading dead tree books, but an e-book reader makes is SO much more convenient to travel. If I'm away on a trip for 2 weeks I would have to carry around a shitload of books, which take up space and are very heavy.

Example: ast summer I was on a bus trip in Italy... which meant about 7-8 hours a day on a bus, which meant I read 12 books in 11 days... Carrying 12 books with me would have been impossible, but I took one e-book reader with about 80 of them.

Sonya said...

Ahhhh! I'm sorry to hear about your purse.

I'm a little torn about e-books. I love the idea in some ways because it just makes sense--we've got the technology, we should use it. But, why NOT just go to a bookstore or a library. Why spend $300 (though this woman's husband got it for $150)? Why deprive yourself of pages that smell so good? But, then later, in future generations, will people miss the beautiful gleam of sunshine off a screen or maybe the smooth texture of the plastic on your hands or, if it's been warmed by the sun, the warmth of the black plastic on one of those chilly but sunny winter days?

....I also love the idea for an extended trip, especially, like Jen said, somewhere overseas where it's expensive and difficult to buy books in English or impractical to bring so many of your own.

The woman I interviewed was also saying that she imagined that students would really like them. I had friends who were Neuroscience majors in college and their shoulders always hurt from carrying so many books around campus and to away trips for sporting events.

The Promiscuous Reader said...

"you cannot ... loan them to a friend..."

I suspect that's part of the idea. Second-hand books, public libraries, lending books to friends ... all these practices are violations of intellectual property, in publishers' eyes. Controlling access to the product is a concern of today's publishers especially. They'd like it even better if they could make you pay for each time you read it.

I can see the benefits of carrying just one small plastic gadget for reading when I travel. On my recent trip to Korea I lugged several big books with me. (Rabih Alameddine's new one, The Hakawati, for one. Which I recommend.) But as others have pointed out, you have to have batteries. I have enough trouble keeping the computer going and the rented cellphone charged. And I don't particularly want to buy a book twice: once for the shelf, once to travel with. I rarely buy anything new to travel with; instead I rummage through my shelves and the piles on the floor to find what I want to take along.

I don't have much patience with either the fear of "books becoming extinct" or the notion that we have this technology, we have to use it. Technology exists to serve me, not to rule me. I'll use it if I damn well feel like it, if it is useful to me. E-books won't make books extinct, though it would make them more vulnerable -- a single electromagnetic surge could wipe out a lot of books irrecoverably. A book is not a particular material object, it's a text that can exist in many forms. (Scroll vs. codex? Clay tablets?) And while I agree that I prefer the heft of the volume, turning the pages, and so on, that's because it's what I grew up on. Someone who grows up with a Kindle might think of books very differently.

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