the Little Red Reviewer

The Epic Pie Chart of E-book severe dislike, Part II

Posted on: December 21, 2010

This is part two of a possibly three part series about why I just don’t jive with e-readers. Read part one, which covered the right half of the pie chart here.   We now move over the left half. . . . See that entire left side of the pie chart? I can totally relate to Yomiko Readman of the Read or Die manga (the manga kinda sucks, but I love her character).

Behind all the feet and latex gloves and sexual definitions of the word “fetish” lies its original meaning:

An object of unreasonably excessive attention or reverence, and/or believed to have magical or spiritual powers.

Do I believe books have magical or spiritual powers? I feel mentally comforted when I am around them, and when I feel the need to be somewhere safe, my first thought is the library. I’ll let you decide if I answered Yes or No.

Sometimes my favorite part of my book collection has nothing to do with the stories contained in the books. Sometimes my favorite part is the physicality of the books themselves. The things that make them a “book”, and not a pile of paper that’s got stuff printed all over it and been bound between heavier paper.

This is where things start to get unreasonable and excessive.

There’s what I can see with my eyes:

What does it look like? What color is the spine? Is it softback? Hardback? Thin? Thick?
Is it heavy? Light? Flimsy? Teesy? Coffee table book sized? Are the pages bleached white or offwhite?

There is what I see with my fingers:

What’s the texture of the cover, the spine, the tops of the pages? Rough or smooth? Open it up. Is the paper itself rough, smooth, thick, thin? Can you feel where the ink on the pages is? Are the corners of the covers worn?

There is what I see with my nose:

What does it smell like? Brand new? Cigarette smoke? Grandma’s attic? The coffee you spilled on it last week? Is it musty and full of molds and allergens that freak my sinuses out?

There is what I see with my memory:

How long as this object been a part of my life? Did it move with me when I moved out of my parents house? How many dorm rooms and apartments has it seen? How many times has it been packed up and trucked up and down multiple flights of stairs? Or is this it’s first apartment, it’s first home? What kind of feeling do I get, knowing this object is a part of my life? Sometimes comfort, sometimes amusement, sometimes entertainment, sometimes ambivalence.

(I understand that “see” is the wrong verb for those senses, welcome to my wonderful world of mixed metaphors! You know Tof, from Avatar? I see with my hands and nose the same way she sees with her feet. I enjoy seeing with my feet as well, but I rarely look at books with my feet)

My love affair with books obviously goes way beyond the story itself. My biggest beef with e-books and e-readers is that they only offer me the story itself, whereas I require the entire package: experiencing this physical book with all my senses, to be uniquely imprinted in all its dimensions into my memory.

Or shit, maybe I’m just a hoarder in denial?

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2 Responses to "The Epic Pie Chart of E-book severe dislike, Part II"

I was waiting for Part II! And this was beautifully said, all of it.

I have to admit, not ALL of my books have this kind of attachment. But…there is my copy of Poems by Browning that has an inscription on the flyleaf that was written to my grandmother by her best friend on her 18th birthday. There’s my copy of Nature by Emerson that was published in 1884. There’s my coffee table size book of paintings by William Bouguereau that I paid more money for than I like to think about because his paintings are just that beautiful and pulling them up on a computer screen won’t cut it. There’s my copy of Susan Kay’s Phantom that I’ve never actually read because I borrowed a friend’s copy to read before I bought mine, but I’ve flipped through to find favorite lines more times than I can count.

They’re at one end of the spectrum. And at the other end are the books that, simply by virtue of being paper and ink and something physical I can hold and know has the comfort of an escape from a technologically-driven world, are still better than words on a screen.

There is something comforting about sitting among stacks of books that just isn’t there about sitting among computer screens.

So yes, I wholeheartedly agree–an ebook just gives you the words. Buying a physical book gives you SO MUCH more.

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Lol. I love the last sentence.

And I have to agree, with the left side of the pie chart at least. ;-)

I fall in love with an entire book, not just the words, but the cover, the smell of it, the weight of it and most definitely the memories it evokes every time I glance at it on my shelf or move it (yet again) from one pile to another.

And I am always defending my collection to my family. I can’t get rid of them. These books are like friends. Hmm. Now that I see that, it does sound a little cookoo. But, I still don’t take it back.

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