Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Thoughts on visiting a lending library

I brought my kids to the local lending library last night and I was struck by how wonderful it is to stroll through aisles of books. Seeing them, touching them, smelling them and browsing through them. I have been something of an e-book evangelist for the last few months so it was a grounding experience to be reminded just how much pleasure can be got from physical books.

Apart from the tactile sensuality of it all I was also struck by how much better the browsing and selection process is with physical books than with the crude tools that online booksellers have managed to come up with to date. Choosing books online is a narrowly focussed activity. I tend to know exactly what I want before I start and the search tools quickly (or not so quickly in some cases) bring me to it. Browsing physical books on shelves is a much more open experience tempting one to pick up and read the most unlikely titles. Last night for example, among my usual selection of Fantasy and SF novels I also borrowed a book on soap making for no better reason than it caught my eye.

None of this changes my opinion that paper books are on their way. I still believe the vastly superior economic efficiency of e-books means that their rise to dominance is inevitable. I am sure that scribes of yore lamented the dying artistry of hand scripted manuscripts when the printing press and its ugly mass produced volumes made them redundant but it happened none the less. 

1 comment:

Cap'n John said...

While I like the thought of having hundreds if not thousands of books at my fingerprints through the accessibility of a Kindle or Nook, IMO there's something tactile about a physical novel that is conspicuously absent from an eBook. How can you have a "page turner" if there are no pages to turn? :)

In the blown up picture on my Blog where I'm showcasing my 50" "computer monitor" you can see my bookcase to the right of the big screen, and the keen-eyed observer will notice that my books are double-stacked with a second row behind the first. My wife is a member of paperbackswap.com and she is frequently asking me which of my books she can list so she can get credit to obtain other books. At first I would look through them for any that I was willing to give up. Now I just tell her "none of them", for just as I can watch & enjoy a good movie multiple times, I will frequently reread good books, revisiting loved characters and reliving their victories.

I realize Kindles & Nooks and even eBook readers on smart phones are becoming more & more popular. I even have one on my BB Torch which lets me read many classic novels such as The Jungle Book, Sherlock Holmes, Great Expectations, and Oliver Twist, but in spite of the convenience of having numerous books immediately available via my Torch it's just no substitute for reading a real book.