I am officially reading my first book via Kindle. The book is Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, and it’s for my book club, which meets on Monday. I tried to reserve the book through my local liberry, but there were no copies available. I wanted to go to Barnes & Noble but never could plan a day that would take me there. So, I was left with downloading the book onto my smartphone.
I have mixed feelings about this. I think there are definitely pros to reading digital copies of books. First, and most important to my liberal-commie-bastard self, downloading books saves trees and reduces the use of other non-sustainable resources it takes to produce printed copies of books. Second, downloaded books are more portable. I can whip out my phone and read whenever and wherever I have a free minute. Third, downloaded books take up no physical space, which makes room for more shoes.
There is one con: downloaded books are not books.
I’ve loved to read all my life. I credit my mother, who devoured books when I was growing up. She was always reading at least one thick paperback, and I was always surrounded by books. The act of reading was like second nature.
But I’ve also always loved books. The dry, pulpy smell, the comforting, familiar heft in your hands, the way they look lined up on a bookshelf. A book, especially a really good book, becomes a companion as you make your way through its pages. It literally opens up a world to you and contains that world while you’re away, waiting patiently for your return. When you read the last word on its last page, you can close it, stare at the front cover for a few seconds and then hold it to your chest while the story settles over you like a blanket. And if you ever want to read it again, there it will be on the bookshelf, its spine bent back from your first reading, the chocolate ice cream stains on the back flap from where you took it to the kitchen, the scattered, raised bumps on page 243 where you cried when the best friend died.
You can’t get any of that from a Kindle. A Kindle, like a cold, indifferent lab technician, provides the book to you without even making eye contact and walks back out of the room. I plan on reading in bed tonight, and I know it’s not going to feel right to curl up with my smartphone.
Publishing is slowly but surely going the way of the digital reader. There are some publishers who are still holding out, but we all know that in fifty years books will have gone the way of the VCR. Electronic publishing is easier, cheaper, and the people like it. It’s inevitable.
I’ll still keep and re-read my favorite books, though. After all, I’ve never had to plug my copy of Jane Eyre into the wall to charge it.