May 22, 2011

still not convinced, e-reader

Photo by kodomut

I was really saddened to learn that one of my favourite places in Toronto, the Flying Dragon Bookshop, will be closing its doors. 

On their blog, the owners addressed the rapidly changing market in books and rise of techy literary mediums like e-readers, and how "at the end of the day we realized that for us, it was all about the books and the tactile, sensory experience they provide."

I've seen more and more e-readers these days, especially among expats and travellers here in East Asia. I've heard some excellent arguments in favor of the device, that it saves trees, weighs next to nothing, and frees up packing space for travel-bound bookworms. 

Still, for me, the tangibility of a book trumps convenience. I love the weight of a book in my hands or on my lap. It's a feeling as familiar to me as a hug. I love the aging of books, the lines and scars they collect like bodies, the way a battered tome in a secondhand shop carries a bit of mystery with it. I love the fact that a book is more that just the story on its pages.

On the train today, with a fat book taking up tons o' purse-room, I thought about some great memories and surprises in tactile books.

  • My mother's name handwritten on the inside cover in her 1970s Margaret Atwood paperbacks. She was a med student then, her handwriting studied and precise. She doesn't write that way anymore.

  • My old travel guides scratched with notes, pages fat from ticket stubs and pamphlets pressed between them, the flecks of dirt and food, the smells and familiar weight, the spine sagging when the book collapses open. 

    • The receipts and stubs pressed into the pages of secondhand volumes. The grocery lists in someone else's handwriting. The odd photograph. The terrible poem I found scratched into a battered paperback of Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot.". It told the story of a backpacker's ill-fated romance with a Chinese bartender, titled "The Demon of Nanjing." Voyeuristically awesome.

      • In fact, I've seen romance stem from book exchanges too. Boy lends girl his favourite book. They meet for coffee and discuss it. Hollywood makes a film adaptation. Boy and girl are skeptical as to how the story will lend itself to the medium of film, but plan to see it together anyway. The theatre gets dark. Hands touch in the popcorn bag. How are people supposed to date anymore?

      How about you, blogworld? Any good book memories to share?


      1. i am on my second e-reader (a kindle) after breaking my kobo during a midnight feeding session. i love it for the bus or for reading w one hand while holding charlotte. but i really miss lending and borrowing of books and being able to spy on what other people are reading or have on their shelves!

      2. Where do libraries fit into this scheme of things?

      3. Jesse - I never thought of one-handed reading. That sounds pretty appealing. One point for Kindle.

        Andy - good point! I'm curious to see what becomes of libraries in the coming decades. Ideas?