I’m reading a book right now. Not so unusual, since I read all the time. But what’s different for me in an unexpected way is I’m reading a book in its old five hundred year old format — paper, ink, binding, the whole enchilada. I’ve read books all my life, from Tom Swift’s wonderful sci-fi adventures and beyond. In fact I’ve listed a few of my all time favs at my Goodreads page.
What’s odd for me is how awkward reading an old fashioned book is for me now. I’m an early adopter by nature, so I’ve been reading ebooks on my iphone as soon as I bought the thing and I haven’t really looked back. With memories of dial phones and black and white television still roaming my brain, the idea of having twenty or fifty or a hundred books in my pocket, accessable at any time is well, it’s mind blowing. I read when I’m standing in a line, waiting for a meal in a cafe, in bed, on the sofa, on the sidewalk, in a plane, you name it, I read there. It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night, if there’s sufficient light, if I remembered to put it in my backpack. My phone is always with me, anytime, any place.
So a friend handed me a copy of The Windup Girl, which I have to say, I’m thoroughly enjoying. However, because it’s a traditional book, I’ve got to be at the right place and time to read it. I have to be in the right position, with a good light or it’s a nightmare. And god forbid you lose your grip. The book closes and you have to search around hoping to find your place.
I’m not blogging about this to whine about traditional books, only to say my struggle with a simple technology I’ve used all my life, the paper book, surprised me. It’s a bit like the advent of the automobile I suppose. People were used to horses. They were organic. You had a relationship with your transportation. Then this sputtering, smoking thing called an automobile came along. The initial reaction from many was “it’s not a horse.” But as time passed, they found themselves surprised about having adopted the new technology. They could go further, faster and without the care and maintenance involved with a horse.
And like the horse, I think the traditional book will continue to be produced, albeit in a more specialized form. Just like the special relationship some people have with their horses, many of us have with our books. There’s a smell, a feel to it that’s part of the experience of reading. However, if given the choice of hasseling with a traditional book or downloading one (I probably could have purchased ten books and downloaded them in the time it’s taking to read this blog), more and more of us will surprise ourselves and gravitate to the new technology.
So what’s your preference and why?