10 March 2011
Post 348: The Book Thief
There is a moment when Liesel walks into her first library. It's a private library, but I think most of us who are readers and lovers of books can appreciate her joy that there is such a room, and that it is filled with walls and walls of books. There is something very powerful about that much potential and that much dedication filling a room. I say potential because until you open the book, it is just sitting there. Libraries are awe-inspiring because they represent what you could have if you had the time, energy, and effort to absorb and comprehend the words inside the book.
I will admit, eReaders are less inspiring in this way. It is amazing to be able to fit a library of 1500 books (or more) onto an eReader, but it is something different to see spines on a shelf. But the fact remains, if you aren't reading or haven't read those books they aren't much better than paperweights. This is why I feel so disappointed to hear some of my favorite authors bemoan the eReader and deny allowing their books to be made into digital copies.* I understand you want your readers to have the same experience with literature that you had, but isn't it better to have readers to begin with?
I don't think the book is going away. It it still the easiest and best method for preserving text and pictures. But it would be foolish to deny that eReaders do not have some part to play in the future of reading, even if it is only a stepping stone to The Next Thing. There is of course concern that children aren't using their imaginations with new children's book applications, and this is a valid concern. But there is undeniable power and appeal in having access to millions of works for reasonable prices and almost instantly. It is easier for me to take my eReader on an airplane than it is to find room in the measly carry-on they allow for several paperbacks (I finish one about every 2-3 days on average, you do the math for a week's vacation).
So if eReaders make reading easier, why are so many authors against it because it is "not a book"? I can tell you the eReader fits in my hand much like a book would, although it is not as hefty. And my leather cover evokes many of the same memories a traditional book binding would. I get the same amount of pleasure from reading on a digital screen as I do on paper. They are certainly different experiences, but when it comes down to it, I am more interested in the story inside of the book than I am the physical container.
True, I don't like reading in front of a computer screen, but the eReader is small and requires the same amount of light as a book and manages to create a similar intimacy. I wonder how many of the authors have judged eReaders without even picking one up. They really ought to. It would sort of be like a librarian refusing to transition from typewriter to keyboard. Just because this isn't the way they did it when you were growing up, does not mean you get to opt out of the change. You don't have to like it, but you do have to accept that it's happening and either work with those changes, or risk being passed up for promotion.
I don't want libraries to disappear. I don't even want libraries to become "bookless." I don't think that will happen anytime soon. We are still awed by the physical presence of knowledge, and I think we need those sacred places. But libraries do have to change, just as everything else does.
An awesome video review can be found on bandgeek8408's channel.
LibsNote: Copy checked out from my library via Overdrive Media.
*Although I can more easily understand their concern for pirated copies once they've been digitized.