I like eBooks. I really do. I have hundreds of them…but I have a couple thousand books, and they’ll always play an important part of my life. I’m an adult convert to the book. I hardly touched one until my senior year of high school. One summer, house sitting for a teacher who clearly loved books, I set the goal of reading one a day for the next two months. I might have missed a day here and there, but there is no question that something shifted inside of me. Even before that time, I respected books. Maybe that was due to good marketing from Scholastic or those posters in the elementary school libraries that cast a vision of reading as a way to explore exotic lands. I always thought of books as something that could change you, but I just didn’t have the patience or discipline to work through a long one without pictures…not until that summer.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a book is, “a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers.” Given this definition, an ebook is not a book, although the OED does define an eBook as “a version of a book.” If that topic interests you, then there is no shortage of blog posts and articles on the subject. Here is small selection that I’ve enjoyed:
- What eBooks Can Offer and Take Away
- Why an eBook is Not a Book
- Is an eBook a Book, or is it Something Else?
- When is a Book Not a Book?
For me, the comparison of the book and the ebook is a fascinating and valuable topic, but I realize that others see little use in the discussion, noting that the future is one where most reading takes place on some sort of screen. Whatever the case, I’m devoting the rest of this post to reflecting on the obvious…not to make a point as much as to enjoy what is distinct about the book when compared to its digital counterpart. Ultimately, this is little more than a nostalgic reflection on the role that books play in our past and present.
Things That You Can’t Do with an eBook.
- You can’t turn the pages with you fingers.
- You can’t rip out a page, which might change the dramatic effect of that beloved scene in Dead Poet’s Society.
- You can’t lose it (well, you can, but you can usually download it again).
- You can’t watch a friend or loved one unwrap it and read that note on the inside cover.
- You can’t line them up on your shelves like a hunter’s trophy chest or relics that remind you of travels to distant lands.
- You can’t smell it (although people came up with a variety of solutions for this one already).
- You can can’t guess its age by the look and feel.
- You can’t use it as a subtle discussion starter with a stranger in the airport by lifting the cover up just a bit higher than usual.
- You can’t burn it in protest or blot out the “bad words” with a black marker, just enough mystery to entice the young and clever reader to fill in the blanks for himself.
- You can’t write in the margins, leaving the chicken scratch as mental (or emotional) footprints for your great-grandchildren to cipher after you’re gone.
- You can’t leave coffee, tea, wine, or tear stains on the pages.
- And you can’t steady the leg of that uneven chair with a bad one, leaving you feeling a bit better about wasting ten dollars on it.