Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Death of the Book

“Pity the book. It’s dead again,” writes Ben Ehrenreich. Kudos if you make it through his lengthy article “The Death of the Book.” Despite my interest in the facts included about the history of books, it took me two sittings to get through all 2,644 words (not counting the title, byline, and citations). Perhaps it was simply that I disagree with his major premise. Maybe it was only because I don't like to read for long on my computer screen.

Ehrenreich says, “Last summer Amazon announced that it was selling more e-books than the paper kind. The time to fret had passed. It was Kindle vs. kindling.” To be fair, he does illustrate that the death of books has been discussed for generations, but he also includes his personal bias. “For the record, my own loyalties are uncomplicated. I adore few humans more than I love books. I make no promises, but I do not expect to purchase a Kindle or a Nook or any of their offspring. I hope to keep bringing home bound paper books until my shelves snap from their weight, until there is no room in my apartment for a bed or a couch or another human being, until the floorboards collapse and my eyes blur to dim. But the book, bless it, is not a simple thing.

Despite his clever analogy, I must take umbrage with Ehrenreich’s view of the electronic book (eBook) reader as the opponent of books. I see it instead as the companion and expansion of books. Books have been my lifelong love, a fact which I touched on in my opening blog (Beginnings: I am a writer because I am a reader). I lugged six bookshelves worth of books through numerous moves, and I would return from my frequent library visits with a stack of five, six, or even seven books.

Jimi with her Kindle
Then Amazon announced the Kindle. I jumped to be an early adopter, placing my first Kindle order on June 6, 2008. I have upgraded with each successive generation. My paper book collection has reduced in inverse relation to my eBook collection. This is a good thing for my sometime nomadic lifestyle. My back is thankful each time I pack my slim Kindle in preference to my previous stack of paper books. Like my paper books, eBooks take me to new worlds, challenge me with new thoughts and ideas, and teach me new skills (like photography). And yet there will always be bookshelves in my home. There are some paper books that I will never trade for eBook editions, though I might also buy the eBook version.

An eBook is no less a book for being electronic; it is simply a book in another form. Books are not dead. Growing and changing is a function of living. Books are very much alive, and I am eager to contribute this growth by releasing my novel as an eBook.

Is an eBook a real book? What is your reading platform of choice: paper, Kindle, Nook, Sony, computer?

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