On Reading: e-books vs. p-books

Book Graveyard

My last post—self-publishing vs. traditional publishing—was about why, as a writer, I hope to get published in the traditional way. This post is about why, as a reader, I want to continue reading in the traditional way via printed books, or p-books.

E-book fans out there! Don’t go away! Please read on with the caveat that I am not morally against e-books. I’m not threatened by them. I don’t think they are evil. The future is here and we as readers are lucky to have so many cool options for reading: on our computers, on our phones, on our e-readers—anywhere, anytime.

But e-books are evidence of the end of something big. It’s the end of a 1,450-year era. Let me be sad about it, okay? And nostalgic. And let me hold on as long as I can to the old days. E-books are sounding the death knell of the print-books-on-paper age. In the future, p-books will be rare, likely expensive, and maybe not appreciated very much, like an old toy stuck in a box and never played with again.

If I were a poetically inclined, I’d write a poem entitled “Ode to the p-book.” For now, you’ll just have to settle for a list.

P-books make a home warm and comfortable. I love the way books decorate a room. My dream room contains a wall of books, so I can see them all at once. It’s oddly comforting. Hello, friends.

A p-book feels good in my hands. I love the tangible, tactile experience of opening up a p-book, exploring all the nooks and crannies, and flipping the pages when I’m deeply engrossed in a story.

Bookstores are an escape from the internet. I love to walk into a bookstore and browse for hours. I’m on a computer all day at work, and in the evening I’m on my MacBook reading blogs, writing, etc. A p-book is a total escape from that. My eyeballs thank me.

A p-book can be signed by an author.

A p-book has boundaries. I’m one of those who gets a migraine when there is “too much input,” as Number 5 says in the ’80s movie, Short Circuit. There are no hyperlinks or video in a p-book. No external input. No distractions. No internet. No email. No phone calls sharing the same physical space as my book. Just one story, contained between two covers.

P-books never have technical difficulties. I don’t have to recharge my book, add batteries to my book, worry about my book malfunctioning or ruining my book if I drop it into sand or water.

P-books aren’t as costly to replace as an e-reader. If I lose or someone steals my printed book, it won’t make me cry. If I lose or someone steals my e-reader, it will make me cry. I’m out a small investment that I won’t easily go out and replace.

With p-books, evidence of what was published in the past cannot be wiped away in the future. Books like Tom Sawyer can stand as they were originally intended by the author and the publisher. Revisionist historians cannot go in and erase or rewrite anything to make it politically correct. I won’t even talk about how definitions of words in dictionaries have changed over the past hundred years.

I can actually own my p-book. I can easily loan or gift p-books to other people. I can pass my p-books on to the next generation. I don’t have to go to great lengths to protect my purchase by backing it up on a hard drive. See this article on BookAnoid.com: “Do you actually own the e-books you buy online?” where blogger Tony states: “In fact there is only one way in which you can make yourself the legal owner of a book, and that is to buy a paper copy of the thing.”

To borrow some words from Charlton Heston:

“I’ll give you my [printed book] when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!”

What about you? Are you a hold out like me, in love with printed books?

Or are you a huge fan of e-books? Or both?