Over the years we have seen a rapid change and evolution in technology and how we consume media. Vinyl records evolved into cassettes, which later graduated to CDs, and now we have digital music files. We carry these small files onto an mp3 player, which is pretty much dominated by Apple’s iPod. Has there really been any other mp3 player to compete with the iPod? What makes the iPod a nifty little device is the ability to add and remove songs whenever you like.
TV isn’t what it used to be. Before we had VCRs to record our favorite TV show by setting it on a timer. These days you have TiVo or the internet’s streaming services which posts an episode online within the next day of the show’s air date. You can see we live in an age of instant gratification. You want something now? You won’t be waiting too long or at all to get it.
Along with these updates you have books going digital. E-readers and tablets like Kindle and iPads have made it easier to carry books you are currently reading by simply downloading and uploading them onto these devices. Gone are those days when we used to have to lug heavy books on the train or bus. With the electronic copy of the book, packing your bag has never been easier. It also reduces the amount of shelf space a book takes up at a given time in your bedroom or study.
I do like the benefits of having e-books, but when it comes to reading, I like to hold an actual book in my hands. I know many think their Kindles, Nooks, and iPads are a godsend and it doesn’t give you the headache of figuring out where to store books in your house or apartment anymore. It makes having to carry extra stuff in your bag less of a nuisance too. We also have the argument of saving a lot of trees in the process by not having to mass produce all the paper used to make these books.
Call me old fashioned, but holding a digital download of a book that’s on a tablet or e-reader device doesn’t feel the same. I love the smell of fresh paper when a book has been newly pressed. I also love owning a book for a long time and it starts getting that old, aged paper smell. It feels like coming home after being away for years. I like the action of actually turning a page and feeling it between my fingertips. I also like placing my favorite book on a shelf with a happy sigh after finishing a really good story. Holding an e-book on a tablet feels…cold and impersonal.
Sure, an e-book is beautifully presented in high-resolution, the black text pops out in strong and striking bolds, and it’s sort of cool to have an entire library just within your fingertips. Still, an e-book lacks the romance of reading a book. I always find it really appealing when I see paintings or photographs of people holding an actual book in their hands or having it laid face down on their lap as they sit outside on a beautiful spring day under a shady tree. If you need to hold your place in a book until you can come back to it later, you have a variety of bookmarks to choose from to hold your place. I have a ton of bookmarks I have collected over the years and they have held the place of more than one book many times over for me. I’m also a fan of finding a flower or leaf you picked up on your day out from somewhere and pressing it into your book as a comforting memory of that day.
I own an iPad and until now I haven’t really bought any e-books to take on the go. Maybe the only time I have bothered to read an e-book was recently when I saw on Twitter that the book publisher HarperCollins offered a free e-book download of Neil Gaiman’s short story How to Talk to Girl’s at Parties as part of their marketing strategy to include a preview of his newest book. It was an interesting experience to read my first e-book on the iPad. The high-resolution presentation of the book made it look really nice on the screen and they replicate the experience of turning a page in animation form, but I can’t say I would trade a physical book for an e-book.
I am becoming aware of the problem of owning too many books, as I am running out of space to put them. I’m hoping one day when I have a place of my own I can have a bigger space with a larger book shelf to keep all my favorite books stacked upright with their colorful spines showing. I realize my biggest problem with collecting books and keeping them is when your collection also includes a lot of manga. My large collection of shojo manga is getting quite unmanageable with my lack of shelf space. I have come to accept that a compromise needs to be made. I can continue collecting the physical copies of manga series I do have, but any new series I want to read and collect may have to be the starting point for a brand new digital collection.
Ultimately, when it comes to the e-books vs. traditional books debate, I will be among those who can’t part with my beautiful book collection. I do see how helpful and convenient the age of digital books can be when you are a collector of geeky things, like comics and manga. By having some of my books go digital, maybe my shelf space can finally breathe a sigh of relief. What better books to go digital than comics and manga? Images look so much crisper and vivid on an iPad.
Besides, what would we do without traditional books if everything went digital? I find it hard to imagine a world without a good, hefty book being held in your hands or cradled in your arms. No more libraries? No more bookstores? Inconceivable!