I have had multiple discussions about e-books vs. books in numerous blogs. It is a pointless endeavour largely because most people aren’t liable to having their opinions altered – myself included. It’s hard to acknowledge you’re wrong. I never do.
What bothers me in most of these posts is not that the pro-printed-book advocates have strong convictions. What bothers me is that they usually have a strong opinion on a subject they’re merely ignorant of. I wouldn’t say a movie on a TV is not a movie if I never watched one outside of a theatre. Why is it OK to say that a book is not a book if it is not printed if I never owned a Kindle or a Nook or a Kyobo?
From those discussions I compiled some of the arguments I’ve made. They have gone mostly unheeded and ignored, or responded to in broad statements that resulted in no further advance on the discussion. Some were even not approved or erased after the fact – if you’re not up for discussing the opinions you post on-line either disable the comment section or ask only for one-dimensional complementary input.
Imagine a discussion only slightly fictionalized:
Pro-print: “How do we convince them these new books aren’t books? No matter how many realistic additions you add to the e-readers, you will never replace the feel, smell, and experience of a real book. It’s not some cop out that old fogies use to get out of changing. It’s about respecting the package the story comes in and how it affects your experience. When you can ctrl F key words or at the flip of a screen go to the end of the book, the mystery of the story is lost.”
Pro-electronic: “Books are words put together. The better the words, the better the book. Hard-cover binding doesn’t improve Nicholas Sparks, electronic format doesn’t diminish Dickens. Real readers read real books, I agree with that much, but I disagree with your definition of “real book”. It has nothing to do with where it is printed. Nothing! Moses would probably say that ‘The smell of old stones is a gateway to our memories’ or ‘That no matter how many realistic additions you add to the printed book, you will never replace the feel, smell, and experience of a real rock.’”
Pro-print: “Oh yeah, smart ass! Then how do you explain that people will spend hundreds of dollars for specific editions and leather bindings because it adds character to the story rather than just words on a screen.”
Pro-electronic: “People will spend hundreds of dollars for a lot of different things, that doesn’t attest to its validity. In books, they do so chiefly for its aesthetic value, which is a valid motive to buy a book. I have a few dozen which I bought for that motive solely but they don’t add a single thing to the story.”
Pro-print: “An electronic version may be more convenient, but there is a lack of actual material that you are receiving. An electronic form of Dickens is radically different from a bound book because you can experience Dickens in the way it was first created. Moses is also a character from a story in a book that I bet has been purchased almost completely in print form.”
Pro-electronic: “If you want to read the books Dickens wrote, the way you think he intended them, you won’t be able to by reading the most beautifully crafted hard-cover book. What you must do is to build a time-machine or purchase one – I hear the Deloreans are on sale on Amazon – travel back in time to the Victorian era, and purchase the newspapers in which he published single chapters at a time, and wait a few weeks or maybe months for the next one. I believe Dickens, as any other author, intended to be read. That’s it. With his words put together the way he intended; nothing more. Maybe he didn’t plan to be published on a printed book nor on a Kindle. He planned to be read.”
Pro-print: “Yes, the actual material has changed from papyrus to cloth to paper, but the idea is the same with all of those materials. You can feel the work involved into writing it. Making an e-book doesn’t take the same work or investment as a print book does. I understand that most people refuse to change because they are set in their ways. But has it occurred to you that some people just prefer a more personal, individual experience that an electronic device can’t provide for some people?”
Pro-electronic: “What you say about what’s the idea behind materials like papyrus or cloth or paper, well, it’s just not true. I know it suited your argument to say that the point of those materials is to ‘feel the work involved into writing it’, but it is not the case. The idea of using those materials as any other that might emerge is to convey ideas through language and record them. ‘In all ages it has been customary to engrave on stone or metal, or other durable material, with the view of securing the permanency of the record’. The engraving on metal, stones, clay, parchment or paper has served the purpose of recording. Its evolution has occurred because more suitable, less costly and more practical materials have emerged. Electronic fits in that category pretty well.
As for the individual experience you say e-books deprive you of, I must say I’m not familiar with it. I normally create a relationship with the characters, the dialogues, the ideas, the phrasing of the author. Maybe you think an object can convey that individuality; I think if you truly believe that, and if you would enjoy more a hard-cover book than a paperback, or you would appreciate more a paperback than an e-book you’re either completely set on your ways and unwilling to change, or you’re ultimately a shallow human being.”
I’m not the messiah, but you can follow me: