The word e-books seems to catalyze ordinarily peaceful people into battle mode. It brings out the same fury as the very real fear of big box bookstores swallowing up independents. The way the questions are framed ramps up the argument. Are books becoming extinct? How can anybody be satisfied holding a Kindle instead of a book? What about the trees that will be saved? The cost savings? And on it goes.
The Hudson Valley Writers Guild sponsored a panel on the subject of e-book publishing Sunday. There were three panelists: Susanne Alleyn, author of a historical mysteries series set during the French Revolution; Gloria Waldron Hukle, author of three novels; and Robyn Ringler, owner of East Line Books, a new and used book store.
There seemed to be a line drawn in the sand. Two against one. It was an either/or discussion. The writers sang the praises of their experience with e-publishing. It should be no surprise what the bookstore owner thought.
I think the conversation needed more context. There is no question that the e-reader is an important part of the book business now. Look what happened to Borders when Barnes & Noble produced the Nook.
I haven’t made the leap but I see the benefits. My daughter is in graduate school in New York. With her Kindle, she doesn’t have a backache from lugging heavy textbooks on the subway and she is able to highlight, bookmark, and make notes on the readings. Added to that is the cost and space savings.
On the other end of the specturm are my young grandsons whose bedtime ritual is to have books read to them. The five year-old is already proficient on computer games. Reading on an e-reader will be very natural for him but I doubt he’ll ever lose the memory of those times snuggled in his mother’s lap, turning the pages of a favorite book.
I don’t have an e-reader but my book, Standing on the Corner of Lost and Found is available in both mediums.
What I do have is a room in my house devoted to books. The shelves sag from the weight, the furniture is comfortable and the lighting is good. At this point, I can’t imagine reading in there with a hand held device. I don’t know when the time will come when I buy one. But I’m pretty certain it will. I’m also sure that when I buy one, I will never abandon the printed word on paper I can touch. Nor will I get rid of the books that have found a home with me.
We’re all adaptable. Forsaking one for the other seems a bit extreme. Maybe we should feel some comfort in the fact that people are still reading.