Aug 6 2008
In ShelfAwareness, there was the following quote from Richard Cohen writing in the Washington Post.
The book is warm. The book is handy. The book is handsome to the eye. The book occupies the shelf of the owner and is a reflection of him or her or, actually, me. The book is always there, to be reached for, to be thumbed and, too often I admit, to wonder about: Why did I buy this? My bookcase is full of mysteries. . . . I asked a bookseller in New York to recommend a brilliant but unheralded book, and he went through his shelves and picked out several, none of which I had ever heard of. *Her Privates We *was one of them. The Hemingway blurb sold me. No digital anything can do that.”–
To which I say, really? No one on the internet, through emails, through online discourse, ever convinced you to read a book? That says far more about Richard Cohen than it says about the efficacy of the internet as a medium through which books can be promoted and sold. Guess what, even blurbs appear on the internet, particularly when they are quoted on the front cover “The finest and noblest book of men in war.” They aren’t just printed on paper but can be read by millions of people all over the world. Not just those who go into a bookstore in New York.
Of the above stated reasons that print books are better than digital only one is true for paper and not for digital copies. Yes, we can’t thumb through digital books. But guess what, the ereaders get warm (they are heated by electrodes), ereaders are handy (often fit in just one hand), the Sony reader is handsome to the eye and so is the iphone (also known as iCandy), the book occupies the shelf of the ebook owner and I often ask myself why I bought a certain book. Usually that phrase is joined with an expletive or five about 30 pages in.
Cohen laments the loss of books theorizing that digital medium will kill them. That books, bookstores and booklovers will die come the digital age. People don’t stop reading because the material is easier to acquire. And, as even Bezos has acknowledged, a medium that has spent over a century in existence will not soon die off. The rise of digital medium is more about choice and opportunity than it is about death.