These days, it is more or less impossible to go out to eat with my parents without hearing about eBooks.
It’s usually my fault. Because I adore books so much, I inevitably mention what I’m reading, and we get to talking books a little. Always fine, but they are obsessed with eBooks, so that comes up constantly. They are continually baffled why I continue to buy filthy paper books and don’t buy glorious ebooks for all my reading needs.
e.g., I mentioned wanted badly to read the new Mark Twain biography, and they looked baffled. “Can’t you just download it?” they said. Why on earth hadn’t I just bought the ebook???? What possible reason could be keeping me back?
I smile and pass it off with a joke.
Here’s the friggin’ reason.
I don’t mind eBooks in the slightest. But I am acutely and constantly aware of two things.
1) I have shit on floppy discs, shit archived in old e-mail addresses which, without some serious excavation and stepping it up through multiple computers, I am never going to see again in any ungarbled form. And that’s from LESS THAN TEN YEARS AGO.
2) Among my collection, among my old books, I have, four example, three volumes of Guy de Maupassant short stories, which are close to A HUNDRED YEARS OLD.
I can access those books as well as I can access, say, the copy of Let The Right One In which I bought two days ago. Flip open the cover, there’s my book.
This is why I prefer BOOKS. Paper books. I love books, and I love my book collection, and don’t feel like having half of it vanish or corrupt because I upgrade computers, or Apple stops selling and supporting books, or Google gives up on that experiment, or whatever happens.
Does this mean I’m anti-ebook? It does seem that one cannot say a negative word about technology without being a luddite and anti-technology, which is a rubbish idea.
As it happens, I’m fine with ebooks. My wife is getting her reading done these days with eBooks, on her iPhone and iPad. That’s fine by me. She’s reading HORNS, a book she bought digitally, which we bought when it first came out in hardcover.
To me, this is the equivalent of having a hardcover book, but wanting a paperback copy since you read it so much and don’t want to destroy the hardcover. I’ve got multiple editions of some books. This is the same thing. In that sense, fine and dandy. If we lose the ebook or I drop the paperback in the bath, it’s a shame, but it’s not an utter loss.
I want my book collection to perhaps outlast me. Computers are lovely and wonderful, but they are truly of the moment. I don’t mean they’re a fad that’s going to go away, I mean they function in the moment, and then they move on and function in the next moment. They are brilliant for social networking, in that they are of the moment the way a good conversation is. They are fine and lovely.
And yet, I want my books printed on paper and bound together and on my shelf.