Tuesday, October 10, 2017

More on old books

by Rick Blechta

I’d like to stay on the topic of old books again this week. Besides the 11 comments left on Type M (a record for one of my posts), I’ve had e-conversations with a number of other people. Several things were pointed out and I’ve cogitated on most of them.

Then yesterday, Marianne posted on the topic of bookless libraries and that led to even more thought pour moi. I believe I’ve at least sorted out why I prefer real books to e-books, but because of last week’s post, it extends even further.

Let me start off by saying that I have a Kobo reader, and while I don’t use it all that much, I do find it very convenient for certain things. For travelling, e-readers cannot be beat. The last time I took a plane and tried to read a paper book I quickly gave up. Why? It wasn’t the weight of the book. It was because the rows of seats are so damned close together. Even if the person in front of you has their chair back straight up, you can’t put a book on your lap without looking nearly straight down. After a few minutes, that starts your neck aching. The solution is to hold the book up in front of your face. With a hardcover, that gets difficult because of the weight factor. If the person puts their seat back, the book winds up too close to your face.

And ebook reader solves some of those problems. First, it’s lighter than a hardcover and if you have to read close to your face, you can just change the size of your type. They also can easily be held in one hand, a big plus over nearly any paper book.

But outside of travelling, give me a paper book anytime. I just enjoy the experience of reading better with one in my hands. I don’t think it’s a matter of “it’s what I grew up with so of course I prefer it”, either.

With an ebook, there’s little “soul”. You buy the book, load it onto your reader and that’s it. Unless you pass around your reader, no one else is likely to read it. With a paper book, you can pull it off a shelf at home or in the library (assuming it’s not a newly-purchased book) and there’s some “history” that comes along with it. Perhaps you’ve read it before (that little food stain on page 141) or it may be inscribed by the author or you or someone else (like the volume I wrote about last week). Perhaps it belonged to someone you remember fondly. Maybe it’s from your childhood. You get the idea.

And what about library books? You can see when the book was last taken out, at the very least. If you go back to an old-school library, you might even see the name of the people who’ve read it. That can be a very cool thing to browse. I remember withdrawing a book from the McGill library when I was at school there back in the ’70s and found the last time it had been taken out was nearly 40 years before! That was very cool.

If the internet had been around in those days, I would have looked up that student and found out what became of him.

Try that with an ebook!


Sybil Johnson said...

I prefer "real" books also. I like feeling the pages when I'm turning them. And there's something about closing the book when you're finished. E-books seem much more abrupt, somehow, when you get to the end.

Rick Blechta said...

I agree with you Sybil. Ebooks just lack soul, IMHO.

Sybil Johnson said...

They are convenient though for travel, as you say. My mom has a couple books that her father owned which is pretty cool. Since my mom is 95 and my grandfather died in the 1950s, you can imagine how old those things are. Fun to see his name on the inside cover.

Rick Blechta said...

I have a few of my grandfather's books, too. They go back to the 1880s, and I love opening them up from time to time. I also have my mother's copy of Treasure Islan which I've written about here a while back. I can't wait to read it to my grandson and granddaughter, and of course, in time they'll get it.

Rick Blechta said...

Here's the "d" I left out of Treasure Island. Why the heck can't we edit comments on blogger?

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

I like me Kindle but I love my physical books and buy an awful lot of second hand books. I love the fact these are "recycled" and have been "pre-loved". With the older books in particular, I enjoy seeing the different publishing styles and book covers – newer books tend to be more homogenous with their photo-shopped photographed covers. For me physical books are more than the words on the page, they are a kind of social anthropological record of the time they were written. I also enjoy finding things in books, once I found a Kensitas Club cigarette card (I imagine it had been a book marker). It immediately reminded me of my mum, she was a Kensitas Club smoker. This seemed very fitting as she was a big reader and bought all the second hand books that filled our shelves when growing up, including Treasure Island :)

Rick Blechta said...

Marianne, you and I are definitely cut from the same cloth, and I suspect that extends to a lot of Type M writers as well as our fellow bloggers.

I had to get a blood test done this morning, and of course that involved a rather long wait. My companion was my little red compendium of Buchan novels. I was almost annoyed when my number was called being right in the middle of a rather ripping scene.

Yes, I did think about the fact that I could have brought my Kobo, but somehow it was a lot better to have my new best reading buddy instead.

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

You made me chuckle, Rick – partners not only in crime ;)

I hope the blood test results are good news!