I’m sorry but an ereader on my coffee table will never replace the overstuffed bookcases against my wall and clicking over a title on my monitor will never have the same appeal as browsing through the shelves at a used book store and finding a new (old) Richard Brautigan to add to my collection. Reading a book written in the sixties that was printed in the sixties is a big part of the magic for me. The book itself becomes a part of the experience and that’s something that a plastic reader just can’t provide. There’s a feel to an old book. The browned paper is not quite as smooth as newer books and each scuff, crease, and scratch bears witness to all those readers with equally good taste that have gone before. Someone told me recently that there’s a way for people to turn the screen on their readers light brown to simulate an old printing. Seriously?
Ereaders are here to stay and that’s okay…it’s the way everything is going. On a positive side people now have more access to more writing than ever before (I still have trouble calling them “books”) and if they’re comfortable with the sterile nature of the product they’ll probably read more and this is a good thing. Authors too can benefit from the new technology. It’s relatively easy to self-publish an ebook and there’s a lot of content out there now that would never have seen the light of day through traditional publishing.
So I welcome, although I won’t embrace, the new technology. If it brings new readers and new authors together then that’s fine, in fact it’s great. But give me a quiet evening, a glass of wine, a comfortable armchair, and my latest trade-size copy of The Hawkline Monster over a sterile backlit screen any day. It was published in 1974 and is in remarkably good condition…no creases on the spine, some light wear to the edges, and a gentle crease on the front cover. Someone once cared for this book as I will now care for it and yes, the pages have browned because, well, it’s the real thing.