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:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- I am able to put PDF’s and Word documents on the Kindle, which is a very handy feature.
- 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.