Sunday, January 22, 2012

Curling up with an Electronic Book

Within the next decade or so, one of the most enjoyable and inexpensive pleasures may become as extinct as the dinosaur; the simple act of reading a book. Books have not greatly changed since Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type in the 1400's. Even when printed by computers, the result is still paper and ink, the basis of books since papyrus was first used by the Egyptians. Thanks to the marvels of electronic technology, books as we have come to know and love could become as obsolete as stone tablets.

Initially, technological and reference works, such as Roget's Thesaurus and Bartlett's Quotations were installed in Word Processing programs to aid students, researchers and writers, but the publishing industry doubted if it could convince the public to read literature on the computer. Random House met with the chairman of Apple Computers and announced that the famous book series, "Modern Library", would be published in electronic form, including such classics as Moby Dick and David Copperfield. The books would be offered on the portable Apple PowerBook, a computer no larger or heavier than the average dictionary. According to Nora Rawlinson, then Editor in Chief of "Publishers Weekly", It's the first thing I've seen that I could curl up in bed with."

The pages of the original electronic books turned with the pressing of a button, the print could be enlarged for easier reading, and the computer book read in the dark without disturbing a sleeping spouse. The portable PowerBook was run on batteries recharged every three hours, So if one happenned to be at the climax of an Agatha Christie mystery and the batteries failed, the reader would come to know, first hand, the power of the computer.

The trouble with computers (just to list one) is that they are difficult on the eyes, and staring at the screen for hours, no matter how advanced or clear, can cause headaches, nausea, eyestrain, and nervousness. The safety of long-term viewing has yet to be proven, but short-term studies have pinpointed certain health problems, including the possibility of contracting cancer and is considered to be potentially hazardous to pregnant women.

Still, electronic books have their place, becoming a big hit with American children, who already receive over 50% of stimuli from video screens, deriving questionable gain. Children and adults who hate to read but love video games are drawn to electronic books, which feature pictures and sound effects. This is not the best way to stimulate a love of reading in children, because it stifles the their innate creativity but for some reluctant readers it is better than not reading at all.
Advocates of this exciting technology predict that electronic books, both literary and reference, will soon replace traditional books completely. Those who love to read can carry their slim electronic readers to the pool or beaches,trains, planes and especially use them while waiting for appointments.

I love books and I respect computers, along with a little fear. Books, lifelong friends, have never let me down or disappointed me. My computer has browbeat me, manipulated me, changed my written text at will, shut down on me, lost umpteen pages of manuscript and even once ordered me, in bold print, to "TURN OFF THIS MACHINE AT ONCE"! Which, of course, I did.
Computers are "run" but books are fondled, caressed and enjoyed on much more than an intellectual level. Books are warm; computers are cold, relentless, unforgiving and, no matter who tells you otherwise, they can and do think independently.

True lovers of books will never willingly part with them in exchange for electronic screens. Books are treasured not only for their content, but also for the wonderful aroma of paper and ink; for the pleasant texture of a leather-bound hard-cover volume or the comfortable feeling of a worn, dog-eared paperback.

The thing that is most frightening is not the availability of electronic books, for they have a definite place in a modern technological society, but the dire prospect that they will, out of necessity, one day replace traditional books. This may be inevitable due to elevated publishing costs and more importantly the depletion of world forests. Even recycled paper cannot keep up with the demand for paper products. If it comes down to losing trees or losing books, the trees must take priority, for they promote life.

The new Kindle digital books and others like it are more user friendly than e-books. They are easier on the eyes, are the size of an average paperback book, and can hold thousands of books at once. If any electronic book replaces paper books, it would be this type of electronic book, and that’s scary in a way. It may have its niche but to replace tradditional books is reprehensible to me.

Therefore it would behoove book lovers everywhere to begin hoarding their supply of books and buying as many new ones as possible, so that on that terrible date when books become relics of the past, we will be able to cherish our lifelong friends and pass them on to future generations. The essence of what a book truly is must never be forgotten.


  1. I'll be taking my Kindle to the hospital on Wednesday and hang out with it while my husband has his shoulder surgery, but I really prefer my old paperbacks. I love holding an actual book in my hands and I'm afraid I'm one of those old "die-hards" who is still clinging to the familiar and the comfortable. Great blog!

  2. Dear Micki and blog friends,

    I loved your blog article. Your analogy that books could be in the future as obsolete as "stone tablets" really brought this home for me. How horrible of a thought for all us book lovers, but the trees are so important, you are so right. I wonder if hemp or bamboo could work as a paper product for books? Print-on-demand does help save trees and authors don't have to buy hundreds of books they may never be able to sell and that just waste trees. Let us just hope that books will continue to find a place in the world in the future. And how does an author personally sign a Kindle book? Would book signings also be lost?

    Martha Love, another LinkedIn Friend

  3. This was a very intersting article. I completely agree that you can't replace a good hard copy book. The smell of the pages and the stains on random pages that show how much you love that book is priceless! However, I am a new mom, and being able to read a book off my phone was a godsend while breastfeeding...and you can read it in the dark without waking the baby up!

  4. Micki, I feel the same as you do about real books. I still do not own an e-reader and probably never will. I do have the PC version of Kindle for a couple of free downloads I wanted, but I haven't finished reading them yet. I have hundreds of books, some over 100 years old. You can never reproduce that look and feel electronically. Some old books are quite valuable, but that will never happen with electronic books either. I love the old bindings and etchings and artwork in the old books and would really miss that on an e-reader. I have an 18-volume set of the complete works of Charles Dickens, 1908 (including the letters he wrote home when he was abroad), and I wouldn't trade them for an electronic copy for anything. I hope real books will continue to be produced at least as long as I'm alive and able to read.

  5. Micki ~ Although I have a Kindle and find it handy, it will never replace a book for me. We book lovers need to help keep them alive. I personally make sure I buy at least one book a month in a store. I'm hoping electronic reading and paper reading can co-exist together - sort of like the movie theater and DVDs. FYI - Along these lines my blog, Kick Back Moments, discusses my technology detox. Check it out at Thanks for the thoughts.

  6. Hi Micki! Great blog! I love books too but at the same time as a freelance writer I read too many books every week to be able to get them all in hard copy. I have published three books and always put out an e-book equivalent. Hard copy books are becoming cheaper than ever with the new Print on Demand publishing techniques so I don't think that real books are going anywhere just yet. The newest developments in e-book technology are looking at replicating the look and feel of a book in an electronic version which sounds exciting. It may be possible to have hundreds of different books all in one paper simulating e-book.

  7. Hi Micki

    I have just read your blog on electronic books and books and have to grin. It is very well written an humorous. I really enjoyed it. It really is frightening to think that books as we know them today may not exist some time in the future. I love going to a bookstore and going through the rows, picking up a book here or there that I want to read and I also enjoy hugging my books. When I came to Europe the only thing I brought over was my books and my music and I still have them. Even though I read most of my books now on my iPad, I have a wall to wall book shelf that has all my books and they surround me as I write. Strange, but they are my friends and I really love them.
    So nice to see someone put my feelings on paper. It really is a great article.

  8. Hi Micki. I had a look at this after your recommendation from my recent post, and I read this article when you first posted it! For some reason the computer wouldn't let me comment before (what was that you were saying about these machines?!) Anyway, I believe that because of all of us lovers of real books, they will never be replaced. And they never should be.

  9. I really enjoyed your post. Stopping by from linked in! Glad to follow you!

  10. Thanks for all your comments. I'm happy to know I'm not alone in both my love of books and fear of losing them in true book form.

  11. Hi Micki! I loved reading your words, resonating with every point you made!! "..the trees must take priority for they promote life," caused me to take a deep breath. When I first enter my home, my eyes always light upon my oldest and dearest non-human friends: my books. Then my cats run up and grab my attention! One of the legacies left me by my mother was a love of reading. "You're never alone if you have a good book!" she'd say to me with passion. Sometimes I think that I have my feet planted in two worlds: one foot stands steadfastly in the past, my eyes gazing lovingly at my books and things I hold dear. The other is tingling, curious about all the new fangled gadgets and ideas. Even my ears are tuned into the past yet loving so much of the new. When I get frustrated with my computer (at least once a day!), I remember when we got our first TV.
    Guess I'll stay in straddle position for the rest of my life...with my books by my side.

    1. Hey Doreen, that's the best place to be--straddling both the past and the future!! Thanks for your twitters. I am blogged down under 160 linked in e-mails a night--this has got to stop as I get nothing else done.