Kindle vs. books: The dead trees society, I have never used a Kindle, even though I am probably closer to the age of her grandmother, who was grateful for such a gift. No Kindle, no Kobo, no e-book readers at all. Also like Barbour, the only encounter I have had with an e-reader so far is over someone's shoulder while riding public transit.
I am not repelled by e-readers, but neither am I particularly drawn to them. I have some of what Barbour described of her romance with actual bound books. I treasure an old paperback box set of The Lord of the Rings that was given to me when I was a scared 12-year-old in hospital. I read those books so much that I had to tape the bindings back together. I later bought a hard-cover set, but I will never get rid of my original set. I have other books that are associated with old memories.
I love seeing books on shelves. I love the different colours, heights, thicknesses, typefaces on the spine. I love pulling a book down from a shelf, either for the first time or for the umpteenth time. The gift of a book is special, not least because it is a rare gift (one problem with family who don't really know me). The gift is even more special when it introduces me to a world that I had not known previously. It's like a new corner of the universe suddenly opening up to me.
An e-book can just as easily be a gift, and a thoughtful one, but somehow it would not feel the same, at least not yet. One thing that always strikes me about my over-shoulder peeping is that one book on an e-reader looks just like another. There is no individuality. An e-book is totally about the content, not about the medium. An e-book is a disembodied book.
However, I can see myself buying an e-reader someday, or being happy to receive one as a gift. If I buy it myself, it will probably be driven by the desire for convenience. When travelling, it would be much easier to slip a Kindle into my carry-on luggage than to choose a particular book or books to bring because they fit in the available space. I could read a book in the dark! And I could finally catch up on all those classics that I've meant to read but never have. If I had a Kindle, I have a feeling it would be my constant companion.
I've gotten used to so much else during my life. I'm sure I would get used to not having to use a bookmark, to not turning physical pages, to not smelling the paper and breaking in the binding of a new volume. There are other pleasures in the world. And in the end, I am really reading a book for the writing. Great writing will draw me in no matter whether it is printed on paper or formed out of pixels on a screen.
When books are only published in electronic form, should such a day come, will we have lost something, as Barbour says? Perhaps. But there are those who think that we lost something when we started to write rather than telling our stories aloud and passing them on orally. And surely there were some who lamented the replacement of the scroll by the new-fangled codex. Every generation loses something that the next generation never knows it missed.