Kindle 2: Who Says E-Books Aren't "Real" Books?

After watching a live blog of the launch of Kindle 2, I followed the comments on The New York Times BITS page. The majority, my own included, are positive, but a few see no joy in Amazon's e-reader:

“I have no idea how this kindle thing works and don’t want to know. I have a library I cherish and I take pleasure in touching and browsing through my old and new friends. I love the smell of new books, funky bookstores and book sales where I can find exciting surprises,” says one critic. “I cannot imagine a world without books...”

And nor can I, unless seen through the mirror of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. [Where books are burned, not because of censorship but a tyranny of mindless television, as Bradbury says in a web interview.]

Other critics lament that Kindle books can't be loaned to friends, will “break” if dropped, and bear no comparison to real books.

I'm surrounded by old favorites I can pick up and browse in an instant. I understand the loss these book lovers fear. I look at a shelf with a fine set of the works of Charles Dickens. I think of the best of days spent with Copperfield or a dozen other tales.

I love holding a book in my hand, but know that what captivates me as I sit with Dickens is not paper but ideas. – The story will never change, only the way in which it's presented.

Some prejudice against reading online may be rooted in readers' experience of the early days of e-books with wretched formatting and mediocre delivery. Kindle and other e-readers are already light years away from those recent dark ages, their world of “books” and ideas expanding at warp speed.

Nothing illustrates this more than the British Library's online rare books. Anyone who has ever been in the rare book section of a library knows the rigmarole one goes through and for good reason. Few people will ever get to hold original treasures such as Leonardo da Vinci's Sketches in their hands.

The British Library's Turning the Pages® makes it possible for everyone to do just that, browsing and turning the pages of Sketches and a selection of other priceless works. – As “real” and close-up as you ever likely to see them!


Angela said...

I really enjoyed your site. I am Mr Colborns descendant Angela Colborn. And the part about Mr Colborns house burning. I laught it sounds like our familys luck. We got to America 1635 still a very English family

Wally Dobelis said...

LOOKING AHEAD by Wally Dobelis

Collecting signed Ernest Hemingway books
In a recent trip, chatting with fellow-passengers about the books we carry, an Ohio schoolteacher denounced paper reading material as obsolete, and non-green. He only reads Kindle books and free newspapers on Internet (NYTimes was mentioned). His wife chimed in that library books spread germs.

All that made me sick, no fault of germs, and turn green (nothing personal, fellow environment cherishers). Old books have been part of my life, and libraries were my playgrounds. People collect old porcelain for its beauty and old paintings for their grace and history, and old books because that’s where knowledge resides. A New Yorker writer recently examined Kindle-available titles against his library and found very few meaningful authors electronically represented. A matter of time, you say? Eventually the libraries will be superfluous and un- necessary? Maybe, and so will be brains and thought processes, since all knowledge and opinions (qualified by polls or ayatollahs) will be retrievable from data bases and TV.

I admire books, old, particularly those signed, touched by the author. It is like shaking hands with the mind I admire. My particular mental puzzle is Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), a man with a consistent handwriting, easily recognizable and forgery prone. What was in his mind when he turned the gun on himself in lonely Ketchum, Idaho? Whenever I visit a rare book show, I study the copies of his titles. He seemingly inscribed many books to unidentifiable friends and casual way companions, but had only one , his best remembered book, A Farewell to Arms, published in a 510 copy limited signed first edition, encased in a tight box, guaranteed authentic .

Speaking of boxed limited signed editions as a whole, they are pernicious to the survival of the book in a pristine condition; taking the copy in and out is destructive of the vellum or cloth spine. I never dare to do it without permission, for fear of making an inadvertent perilous move.

Speaking as a collector, of the 510 Hemingway’s 1929 first edition Farewell to Arms limited signed copies only a few have survived in fair condition, and only one in pristine condition, with the box fully complete, an important point. It is for sale at Glenn Horowitz’s book emporium in New York. I have wondered whether the book’s condition survived because the owner broke the edges of the pristine box and restored them more loosely, to gain access to his own treasure without damaging it. (Glenn Horowitz, incidentally, is an internationally known dealer who finds homes for Presidents’ and authors’ personal collections, accessible by appointment).

Alas, the pleasures of collecting treasures are scary in a recession environment. People are looking for values that will resist the inflation lurking around the corner that certain economists warn us about. I have a neighbor who talks of relying on gold, incessantly, in elevators and in the building lobby. Old paintings and porcelain are part of the thinking; many modern pieces of art have not been time-tested, and some of the most avant-garde ones are made of organic materials that deteriorate, and should really come with a restorer’s guarantee, essentially an insurance policy. I will stick with the old values, old books from the 1600s and 1900s are surviving pretty well.