10 March 2011

Post 348: The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Mark Zusak. ISBN: 9780307433848 (eBook).

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.


  1. I'm afraid I'm going to have to argue with you on that point. I actually support those authors who do not allow their books to be made into e-reader versions. I had no idea that was going on, and in fact, I applaud them. There is something singularly wonderful about a book; an experience that you never can and never will get from a computer screen.

    One of the greatest dates I've ever been on (in the top 2 to be sure!) literally involved walking around the college library, pulling books off shelves, sniffing the pages, and reading passages aloud to each other. There is something glorious about leaving a library with a huge stack of books; of the scents, the feel of the bindngs, the rustle of paper....I COULD NOT trade that for an ebook....I'm too much of a traditionalist.

    Sorry about my long rambling....I'm a very passionate bookworm.

  2. I haven't traded eReading for traditional reading, it's supplemental. It bothers me that people assume it has to be one or the other. They both have merits and room in our lives.

  3. Hi Amy! This is a great, well-written post and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. You gave me quite a bit to think about!

    I own a Sony eReader. Truth be told, I rarely use the thing. But, it's great to have so I can easily read new, self published books that are only in eReading formats. I love the feel and smell of books. I love looking at the top and seeing where my bookmark divides the book between what I've read and what I have left to read. My default when I want to read a book is to get my hands on a copy - library copy, personal copy, borrowed copy, purchased copy, any copy! Using the eReader is an afterthought for me.

    Also, The Book Thief is one of my favorite books. That's what made me choose this post to read. :)

    Again, thanks for posting!


  4. Anytime Grace,
    I use my eReader primarily to access free reading material, either out of copyright materials or eBooks from my library. I also follow the B&N facebook page which offers a Free Friday download. I did not buy an eReader to buy digital copies of books, mostly because I don't reread books often. Instead this is just another way for me to experience a story or learn something new. I think this is something the authors who deny eReaders are forgetting or possibly willfully overlooking.

    We'll use Bradbury as an example since he's very much against eBooks. While I respect his desire to preserve the experience of reading a physical book, by denying rights to turning his work digital he is essentially denying the right to read his work for people who prefer this method or who for some reason may not be able to get his books any other way. Additionally, his books eventually _will_ be digitized regardless of whether he wants them to be or not because his copyright will expire and it will become public domain. Rather than accepting this and having some control over or at least input on how it is digitized (for instance, with a foreword pleading the reader to experience it in physical format) he has basically ignored this and so his works will be read in whatever manner readers choose.

    Granted, we have a while for that to happen, The Martian Chronicles were published in 1950 and assuming the copyright notice was renewed it's not set to expire until 2045.

    Still, I find it strange that Bradbury is complaining about wanting people to access his work through book format when he has allowed for audio adaptations and film adaptations and even graphic novel adaptations.

    I am not anti-Bradbury by the way. I love him, I love his work, and I love his advocacy of reading a libraries, but I would really like to better understand his reasoning behind his decision not to allow digital copies of his books.


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