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e-reader killed the bound book
or so it thinks it did
by reem al-omari (@Reemawi)
pop culture

Lately, I have been wondering whether e-reading is really as assaulting to my senses as I thought it was when I found out about the Kindle trying to take the place of bound books.

What makes this such an important thing to figure out right now for me is the fact that ever since I got an iPod Touch less than two months ago, I have sampled e-reading. In the month and a half of small-scale e-reading, I believe I might be making strides toward entertaining the idea that maybe e-reading is not such a bad thing, though I do not accept this offensive way to read a book totally.

Unlike newspapers and magazines, books are a little more difficult to do away with as a printed medium. My opinion is that although e-reading has its advantages and growing fan base, bound books will not go away as long as the generations that hold a dear place for bound books in their hearts are all dead.

What will keep bound books alive alongside e-books are readers like myself, who read books with a joy that only the physical feel of a book can bring. A book has personality, not just with its plot and cover design, but by its dog-eared corners.

Call me crazy, but I feel a rush when I walk into a bookstore or a library. I like the way a book feels in my hands, the way it smells when it’s brand new. I like a person more for having a bookshelf filled with weather-beaten books.

Book covers attract or repel me with their art and texture. The creases I create in the spine of a new book make me smile. A book is something I can throw into a bag (or pocket) and have a whole world available for me to visit anytime, anywhere, sans battery and power worries.

But I can’t ignore the benefits of e-reading.

Truth is, since the iPod Touch and the wealth of apps to which it gives me access to have become an everyday fixture in my life, I am rethinking my opinion of e-reading. I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe it’s not that bad for such a thing to exist.

Up until now, the mere mention of e-reading has been something I greet with a big fat X, like the one people make with their fingers to ward off evil. But after getting a sneak peek into some of the conveniences an e-reading device provides, I am thinking that maybe e-books can co-exist with actual books.

Of course, for me, I will only e-read a book under certain conditions.

Take for example the fact that everywhere I go nowadays I carry with me the complete works of Shakespeare, from his tragedies to his Sonnets.

The idea that I have all of one of my favorite writers’ known works in my purse (or pocket) fills me with excitement. It’s exciting, because I’ve read most of Shakespeare’s works, love them all, and every once in a while feel an urge to look up a clever line to put things into perspective.

I guess you could say that I’ve experienced the bound Shakespeare, and now feel ready to go onto the electronic Shakespeare. In a way, an e-Shakespeare collection serves more as a point of reference for me than anything else.

Sure, I might e-read a play if I’m stranded with nothing else to do but to stare at my iPod Touch, but to deliberately read something electronically like I would a regular book—I don’t think I could ever choose that over something that can give me a paper cut and offer me the convenience of it being salvageable with napkins if a cup of tea ever spilled on it.

So, e-reading can thrive all it wants, and I might enjoy the ease with which I can carry volumes of the literature I love, but I will always be a bound book person with an ever-replenished real bookshelf.


Reem lives and writes about it. She thinks that's what writers do, anyway. If it's not, then she also has a degree in journalism under her belt, along with the titles of reporter, editor (in chief, even) and, of course, opinion columnist.

more about reem al-omari


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alex b
2.12.10 @ 2:54a

Heh. I have a feeling I partially know how this column came about :-)

Much like listening to music on an iPod, e-reading is a digital sign of our times. Some people will always love vinyl and books, while others are just thrilled to just download and have more storage space.

I think that what's most important is that a love of reading is still alive. If people still care about having good stories-- and they will-- then having it read on a Kindle or an iPad is just as good as having it available in book form.

dirk cotton
2.12.10 @ 9:59a

The other night I dreamed that I ran into J.D. Salinger and he offered to sign my copy of Catcher in the Rye. But when I looked in my hand, all I had was a Kindle.

roger striffler
2.12.10 @ 10:58a

I absolutely love the feel of a real book, especially some of my favorite leather bound editions. Thing is though, I am rapidly running out of space for all of my books...if I haven't already. And to be truthful, some I will always keep and treasure and others, well, I still have them because I have a hard time getting rid of them.

So for me, the e-reader is a really cool compromise. Many books that I read (book club books, etc) I would have no problem reading in e-format. It's fun, the quality is finally very good, and it saves me a ton of room on my bookshelf - room I can use for the books that I didn't just enjoy, but cherish. And if I bought an e-book and truly loved it, I'd have no problem going out and buying a bound copy for my bookshelf.

I'm the guy that wrote a column decrying e-books, and I have to say that I've come to see a new place for them in my life.

reem al-omari
2.12.10 @ 12:56p

Alex - It is indeed a sign of our times, but books are a lot more personal than a CD. I mean, sure, when you first buy a CD, for instance, you open up the case and read the little booklet with the lyrics and stuff, but the thing you're really after is the music, an intangible thing on a round disc that scratches and is not convenient at all.

Books, on the other hand, are portable, can be kept forever, and you can bring them out whenever, wherever. An e-reader has many disadvantages versus a book for many reasons: becuase of what Dirk said so well, the fragility of the device, the limitations on when you can bring it out and be sure it's not going to be damaged by the elements. I don't know, I just don't see myself every surrendering to e-reading completely, that's all.

Dirk - Touche! I think you spoke volumes with what you wrote.

Roger - I think we're on the same page, in that we will never cease to show our love for a book by making space for it on a bookshelf. I just hope we will always have physical books.

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