Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

30 January, 2012

Mourning the Printed Page

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

A home without books is like a body without a soul.

Cicero said that, with his customary artful understatement. Horace Mann apparently said that “A house without books is like a room without windows,” but I think the points go to Cicero on this one.

I don’t care for e-books. The news inform me that e-books are marching ahead, while the printed page is in decline – the hopelessly old fashioned book stores going out of business while purveyors of e-books grow and grow. Like the music and film industry before it, the publishing world must now adapt to a primarily digital model. That’s just the way the world turns.

I will get an e-book reader when they are physically indistinguishable from regular books.

I am not opposed to e-books on philosophical grounds; I actually think it’s a good thing that more obscure books become more easily available, and I can well see that an e-reader is practical on trips and plane rides. I just find the notion of reading off a screen profoundly unsatisfying. I know that many, if not most, e-readers do not have screens in the way that a laptop or a tablet does, but use e-paper instead. That is indeed nifty technology, and makes reading on them much less of a strain, but it is still a very different thing from actual paper – something I’m sure they’re working on.

A book is more than the text inside it. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the text is the most important part, but a proper book is something more. It is texture and weight and smell and the sound of the pages turning and the immense satisfaction of cracking it open. There is something magical about a room full of books, a big and beautiful library, that a tiny e-reader with all its storage space cannot match. Foolishly sentimental, perhaps, but I embrace that part of my personality wholeheartedly. And yes, paper books are heavy and require storage space, but I consider that a very good bargain. I am currently moving, and lugging boxes of books up and down stairs may be tiresome, but I would not trade satisfaction for a slight increase in convenience. As for storage space, I have no greater ambition than one day owning a house with a room that can properly be called “the library”.

Anyway, there are practical reasons why I don’t want e-books as well. I object to the idea of leasing books, paying for access, and that the access can be revoked again should the seller so decide, as when Amazon pulled back a book without warning. I think they don’t do that too much any more, and maybe the trend is towards my kind of model, where a file, once bought, is yours to do with as you please, but I would rather not jump into any risky sort of situation in this. I have not really gotten into the stream music services for the same reason; if I buy a copy of a song, I want to keep it and use it as I choose. I also scoff at DRM nonsense. I appreciate that piracy is a problem, but I will not meekly subscribe to solutions which only punish the lawful consumer. Paper books, I can read however and whenever I like.

So there. Through hopeless romanticism and stubbornness, I shall cling to my shelves and books, and not get an e-reader. It’s a matter of principle.

And we’ve seen how well I’ve stood on principle in the past.

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