I like the feel of a real book

One of the things you’ll hear from people who haven’t used a Kindle (sometimes in a deprecating tone, sometimes just one of concern) is:

“I like the feel of a real book.”

I think my significant other had the best response.  My SO said:

“I like the feel of a hundred books.”


Well, I edited that a little bit, but it’s a good line.

Honestly, you sensualists, I was with you.  I love paperbooks (p-books).  I have something like ten thousand of them.  I have a floor to ceiling library in my house.  I have books that are one hundred years old.  I’ve bought the same book in different editions, just to be a completist.

I didn’t think I would like e-books…I was wrong.

I love books…I’m just not that crazy about paper and ink.  🙂

The book isn’t the container: it’s what the author wrote.

Well, and what the editor edited and the proofreader proofread and…but you get the idea.

There was a time when paperbacks were as disdained as e-books.  Why?  Well, one argument was that they weren’t as high quality (in terms of construction), and that was true.  A fifty-year old paperback is much more likely to be literally falling apart (I have some held together with rubber bands) than a hundred year old hardback.

But the other thing is that they “cheapened” books.  I mean, if Shakespeare costs fifty cents, what good is it?  😉

That’s one of the unspoken reasons for wanting books to be lasting and expensive.   For years, the written word was truly the property of a few.  Then, we got Gutenberg, penny dreadfuls, and dime novels.  We got cheap paperbacks in the 1950s…not just sensationalist works aimed at the masses, but the same books the “special few” were reading!

I’m not saying that everyone who loves paperbooks is an elitist…really.  I do think some are: they display their special books like trophies or like the Hope Diamond.  They are proud of spending thousands for a first edition.

Honestly, that’s fine…it’s like collecting art or anything else.

But it isn’t about reading.

I’ve seen people say they like the feel of turning the pages.

If that’s the case, you’d enjoy “reading” a book in a language you don’t know, right?  Or one with blank pages?

You can be proud of your ability to turn pages, certainly…it’s hard!  Even the best of us turn two pages by mistake sometimes, and who hasn’t accidentally bent a page?  Or even dropped a book trying to turn the page and lost your place?

People with reduced fine motor skills, either due to a debilitating condition, or a lack of sensitivity in the fingers, find it even more difficult.

Don’t think it’s hard?  Take a look at this robot doing it:


Sorry, if you are reading this on your Kindle, that video won’t work for you…but it should be okay for iPhone, iPod touch, and computer users.

I won’t say I’ve never picked up a book I didn’t understand and flipped a few pages…but that’s not what I really like about reading a book.

It’s the mental interaction.  It’s reading the author’s words and connecting with them in that special way.

So, wouldn’t something that makes getting the words in front of your eyes and in a form that’s easier to read be better?

It is for me. 

Let’s start with getting the books at all.  That’s much easier with e-books.  Wireless (like the Kindle) or not, it saves a trip to the store or waiting for a book to come in the mail. 

How about expense?  E-books are almost always cheaper (see this earlier post) and there are thousands for free!  Those free books are often the ones for which people paid more as p-books.  Shakespeare?  Dickens?  That’s the kind of stuff people pay five hundred dollars for!  They are free, baby, free!

Now you’ve gotten a bunch of books.   How about having access to them when you want?  Again, booklover, the e-book wins.  If you love books, why don’t you want them with you?  If you want to own them, p-books are fine..they can sit on their nice shelves at home while you are out.  If you want to actually read them….carry a thousand with you!  Pull more out of the air! 

Okay, so now you have a book in your hands.  Which one is better there?

Believe it or not, it didn’t take very long before I preferred e-books.  Holding a physical book is a very specific feeling, and I’m not saying you won’t miss it.  But reading a Kindle is less intrusive, a purer connection to the words, in my opinion.   Since the “page turning” is always the same, regardless of book, you don’t have to think about it as much.  I know, it sounds funny, but you do have to think about whether it is a big book or a little book, cheap newsprint, or glossy pages.  Oh, not consciously, necessarily, but it does take some mental processing.

As to the appearance of the words…being able to make the text size larger can make a huge difference, especially for people with certain print disabilities. 

Once you’ve read a few pages…what then?  With a paperbook, you get a bookmark (or a scrap of paper…or…um…a disposable chopstick sleeve: wait, is that one just me?). 🙂   With a Kindle, you can just let it go to sleep.  I usually hit Home first…but I don’t have to check the floor to see if I dropped that button.  🙂

Oh, and of course, it kept me much more in the book experience on those rare occassions when I went to another room to get a dictionary.  Or to find a pen and paper (or laptop) to make a note of a great quotation. 

Overall, then, I find that reading e-books is much better than reading p-books.

The ownership thing is fine…it’s a grand tradition.  People have been owning things for generations.  Vinyl records, CDs, paperbooks, gold, silver…of course, it’s dying out among the young whippersnappers, what with their mp3s and debit cards and e-books.  Tradition!  If I want to buy my p-book with a gold doubloon, nobody’s gonna stop me! 

I mean, can’t you just see Scrooge McDuck diving into a debit card?  Throwing it up and letting it hit him in the head?  What fun is that?

Okay, so ten percent of my mortgage goes to pay for space for my books…that’s my call, right?   Our friends have sworn never to help us move again…I can always pay for movers, right? 

Um…wait a minute.  Paying for movers?   Paying the mortgage on a bedroom just for the books?  Why, somebody would have to be rich to do that!

You want to look rich…get a Rolex.  You want to read books?  Get a Kindle. 


Okay…end of the faux outrage section.  😉 

Bottom line…try an e-book reader for a week or so.  You may find that what you get outweighs what you lose.  On the other hand, there is nothing that says you can’t read both…a lot of people do.

BONUS:  Plea from a paper book

Look, we need to talk. Strike that…you’ve been talking enough to that Kindle already! And it talks back!

I just feel like…when we first got together, I thought it would be forever. When you bought me that mahogany bookshelf, and those sweet heart-shaped bookends, I thought that meant we had a commitment.

Now…well, you never take me anywhere any more. I don’t know when I even last left this shelf (which feels like a mahogany prison now, by the way). It’s not that I’m angry, it’s just that…

Well, what am I supposed to do? I can’t make myself younger! As soon as something more modern came along, you dumped me. Okay, so that hussy is smarter than I am! It’s not my fault! She’s more adaptable…yeah, like you’d admit to =her= that your eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be!

What about the history we have together? That trip to the beach…those nights in bed…that cute little mustard stain on page 75. She’s not a =real= book! She’ll never smell like me! You can’t be happy with a…thing like that!

So, come on back. What does she have that I haven’t got? Pick me up…see what a =real= book feels like, not some skinny little cold metal floozy who keeps falling asleep on you! I’m here right now: I’m sure you can find those reading glasses again: they make you look so distinguished by the way, dear.

I know, I know…I guess it was inevitable. Don’t judge a book by its cover, right? I’m sure she’s perfectly nice. She’s perfect in every way, according to you! Sorry…just, every once in awhile, could you dust me off and take me to the family room? You know, just for old time’s sake?


Plea from a paper book originally appeared in this Amazon Forum post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the
I Love My Kindle blog.

2 Responses to “I like the feel of a real book”

  1. Al Says:

    Outstanding! I really enjoyed this entry. This says it better than I could have. Thanks.

  2. thorn Says:

    yep. maybe the day will come when more people realize that *actually reading* is the most important thing.

    and — nowadays there are some trade paperbacks that will outlast hardcovers; and it’s possible that e- might be the most durable of all for the heavily-reads. a hardcover of ‘the historian’ was read 1-1/2 times between two members of our household before the back broke. that second person finished the book. luckily we hated it. it would have fallen apart completely upon a third attempt to read it. I can only assume that the paperback would have been bound using a more flexible glue; but in that particular case, the electronic version would have been the most durable of all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: