The Value of Books

This is me in so many ways.

Yet again, I link to the Blog “A Book of Sparks” though, sadly, see at the end of the article that this is her last post, although my hope is that her new blog will have just as many interesting posts which reflect on both the natural and supernatural elements of life.

In today’s post, she speaks about books in comparison to e-books.  Check it out here.

She makes some very good arguments for why real books matter and why e-books don’t matter precisely because they lack matter.

I must confess that I myself have an e-book reader, I own a kindle.  While I have a Kindle, I must admit to the fact that there is a sense of a lack of fulfillment when reading a book off of a screen compared to reading a book in, well, book form!  I understand full well the joy of having the burden of books myself, for I have fallen in love with books and can hardly contemplate life without them.  If there is one thing I have learned from reading numerous lives of saints, it is not that books are unimportant, but they are of central importance.  St Jean Vianney, a saint not known for his intellectual ability nor luxury, had 300 books which, for his time, was quite a number of books for any priest to have!

So, I wish to offer my own remarks on my experience thus far between books and e-readers.

I bought the kindle at the beginning of my internship year here at Christ the King in Courtenay.  I have on it about 50 or 60 books, many of which I have received for free through the kindle site or which I have paid very little for (many of the books I have were .99).  I find it useful for the following reasons:

  1. Though I still carry an inordinate amount of books with me whenever I travel, I have the kindle which is helpful for reading on planes, trains, etc.  When on planes, my pens explode and the books I have with me for the moment are books I wish to write in.  If I can’t write in the book, I won’t read it until I can.  The kindle, however, is filled with books which I would not so much write in, but rather simply read for the sake of enjoyment, such as novels, biographies, lives of saints, even some spiritual books.
  2. It has books which I can purchase which I am unable to find for purchase elsewhere.  For example, I just purchased a book on the life of St Damien, the priest who ministered to the leper colonies.  On Amazon.ca, it is listed as a pre-order book even though it has been released now for well over a year.  Yet I was able to get it on the kindle and to even have it at a reduced price over the print version (though I am sure Amazon makes more money off of the digital versions).
  3. Because I am currently a nomad, living in no single place for longer than eleven months, most of my books are in storage. I have, at the time of writing this, about 1550 books.  1300 of those are in storage.  Yet there comes a time when I may want to read that book and am unable to get access to the book anywhere else.  So, through the Kindle, I buy the book (again, at a reduced price over the print version) and am able to enjoy it without having to have a physical copy of the book to put into storage again.
  4. I am able to put PDF’s and Word documents on the Kindle, which is a very handy feature.
  5. Currently, I live in a town where the local library is anything but sufficient for my interests in reading.  If you live in a town with a wonderful university library, then great!  But if you don’t, it is sometimes difficult to have access to books you want to read but are unable to.  The kindle is a nice intermediary.

So, it has been useful.  But I can’t help but agree with the linked article above.  While it is nice to read the book, I experience, almost, as if I am missing something.  I find, too, that it is more difficult to retain information through digital means than through tangible means.  This is something, in fact, which is backed up by psychological tests, but I cannot find the study at the moment.

I love the smell, the touch, the type settings, the margin spacings, the binding.  I love everything about a book.  I notice when a book is given the attention it is deserved and I notice when it is rushed in order to get the most out of the consumer at the least amount of cost to the publisher.  I love writing in my books.  This is a practice which I highly recommend to people.  When it comes, especially, to books of spirituality, theology, philosophy, politics, history, then write in your books!  It is a way of dialoguing with the author which is most engaging.  I find, too, that when I comment on something in the margin in the book, I tend to retain that bit much better than when I simply let my eyes glaze over other sentences.  For all these reasons and many more, that is why, when you see me coming to an airport, for example, you will see me with a knapsack, and it will look heavy because it is my carry on and all I carry on in it are books.

On a side note, of all the e-readers, I have found the kindle to be the most suitable for reading.  It really is like reading a book from the page, which is why I chose it: digitally, it is the closest thing that comes to reading a real book.  I will never use the iPad or iPhone for reading books: reading off a backlit screen hurts the eyes.  But, in the end, I prefer real and tangible books.  They never go out of date, the technology never needs to be updated, and, save for a fire, you never need to worry about the information being deleted or lost.

Books, I would go so far to say, are friends who are stable. They remain with you, they even collect dust in anticipation for being with you again.  They are wonderful friends because, by reading them, you get to know the people who wrote them a bit more.  The link above is right: there is just something so very incarnational about the book.

in Christ

-Harrison

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Value of Books

  1. Nelson S

    This is more of a product review of my ebook reader and pros and cons, particularly vs. the Kindle. In a follow-up comment I want to talk more about print books vs. ebooks and how this is not an either/or debate.

    I bought the latest Sony Reader PR650 Touch Edition and I’m really enjoying it. It has the same 6″ Pearl E Ink screen as the latest Kindle. It also has a touch screen, which is fantastic. There are minimal buttons and you navigate, type and even draw notes by touch or with a stylus. I especially like turning the pages by swiping the screen. The case is aluminum, which gives it a pleasing solid feel. (The Kobo and the Nook have just announced touch screen readers, so I can see Kindle following suit.) The Sony Reader Store has been around for a long time and it has an excellent selection, including all the latest and greatest. I can also access free Google and Project Gutenberg books through the Sony Reader Store. Also, I can borrow library books.

    There are several reasons I chose the much more expensive Sony Reader over the Kindle: It uses the ePub format and Adobe DRM. This means that I can read my purchased books on other devices that support the Adobe DRM. Of course, there are many ePub books available that don’t use DRM. It also supports a variety of other formats, including PDF. I was strongly swayed by the fact that I could borrow library ebooks by using my Greater Victoria Public Library card via OverDrive. I have borrowed quite a few books now and I love it. I actually buy only a few books and have been able to find many other ones for free from various (legal) sources.

    Something interesting happened the other day. I’d been reading ebooks for about 6-8 weeks and just recently switched to read the Thursday Next series of books in print form. I opened up the first book and thought, “Gee, I wish the print were a little bigger–I’ll just increase it.” But of course I couldn’t. Later on I encountered a word I wanted to know the definition for. I actually went as far as double-tapping on the word to bring up the dictionary. I love print books and own something like 2500, but I also love this new functionality in ebooks readers.

    The Sony Reader has some serious cons, however, especially when you compare it against their competitors (whose devices all sell for much less): No wifi, no 3G, syncing only by a cord with the Reader Library software that you have to download, which is also their store. The software is merely adequate and I have had some syncing problems with it. Last page read and notes are not synced between devices or online. Currently there is no iPhone or iPad app. Overall I wish the same kind of great back-end that Amazon has put in place. I see big problems for Sony if they don’t address this. I love the reader itself. It’s a beautiful piece of hardware–but I want everything else as well.

    There are more problems ahead for Sony and other competitors: Amazon has announced they will implement a library lending system. Also, there are very vague rumours that Amazon will support ePub natively on the Kindle–either as a supported format, or actually switching to ePub. I think it’s clear they’ll always use their own DRM. But if you could also add your collection of ePub books to the Kindle and have it managed in the same way as your Kindle books then I think it’ll be game over for the other ebook devices. Throw in a touch screen and I will be first in line to buy a Kindle.

  2. That was way too advanced for a mammal like me.

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