A book is better than an ebook: for these 9 reasons
1. An ebook you haven’t finished reading is not a permanent invitation to finish it
In 2011, New York Times tech reporter Jenna Wortham wrote with great effervescence that she had finally finished reading her first ebook. How can such enthusiasm be explained in a person so proficient in technology? Wirham has a good explanation: he left any ebook he started reading unfinished, because he forgot. So he had made the solemn New Year’s resolution to put an end to this habit.
Ebooks don’t exist in our field of vision. They don’t push you with their physicality to finish what you started. They are not permanent, embarrassing artifacts left on the nightstand of your bad reading habits. So the hundreds of ebooks bought and started that are out of sight are also out of mind.
2. You can’t keep all ebooks in one place
The books in your library don’t care which store they come from. But in tablets and ereaders, the shelves are divided by vendor – you can’t have all the books you’ve bought from different vendors in one place. Simply because there is, and never will be, an app that allows it. (With many platforms you are doubly penalized, because you cannot buy anything outside the platform store). Apple, for example, doesn’t allow developers to access internal folders where ebooks are stored in order to fetch them for a single library on an iOS device. Even if this restriction were to disappear, there would be the difficulty of agreeing the various vendors who are also competitors ready to start a price war at the first sign of smoke.
But there’s more: the way we read digitally is the opposite of how we actually read. To choose a book to read, we take it off the shelf and start leafing through it immediately. To choose its digital equivalent, we should turn on the device, search for the reading app, open the entire library, search for the ebook with a keyword (of the title, or author), touch the cover to open the linked application – Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks. With this sequence – turn on the device, open the app, choose the book, start the app – you easily risk forgetting what else we have available.
3. Book Side Notes Help You Think
In ebooks, the option of highlighting certain passages is not enough. An attentive reader wants to write about the book in close proximity to the original context. Books offer white space in the margins (albeit less and less), but ebooks have none at all. They have to take a vicious ride to get us to write a comment that doesn’t even show at first glance. And this comment can only be shared between those who have the same app. And so he goes away we remember the serendipity of discovering the notes of the readers in the books exchanged or purchased on the second-hand stalls?
Replicating this experience in ebooks would require new standards, universally accepted, among competitors whose technology is, unlike the book, proprietary.
4. E-books are not property
This is easy, I would say, ultra simple to explain since it is about money and property. But until the ebook offers added value, as Hollywood has done with the DVD extras, the $ 13 is hard to knock down for what it is, for all intents and purposes, a rental. The production of an ebook costs practically nothing and the cover price, set by the publisher, is just below that of a new paperback edition.
Price is not the only problem. Ebooks cannot be lent, shared, donated to the local library or resold. Because they are not like books, they are like software. You don’t buy unlimited ownership of an asset, you buy a limited license to use it. This license is strictly personal, it cannot be transferred, assigned or sold. You cannot pass an ebook to a friend after reading it. To give it to him, you’d have to hand him your entire account, including your credit card. If you trust, you can do it, but otherwise it is inadvisable. You can always crack him, but then you break the law and become a pirate for good. There will be a penalty discount.
5. E-books cannot be used to furnish the house
Before opening your eyes wide at the banality of this observation, consider this thing: when in your intellectual life you have not embellished your environment with books that introduce you to, without a word, to your friends?
It may be a manifestation of vanity, but books – how we organize them, how we arrange them on shelves, the ones we don’t keep – say a lot about what we want the world to think of us. Perhaps more than any other household item, books are our emblem, our ice pick, our business card. Locked in the dungeons of digital readers, no one can hear them talking about you anymore.
6. E-books cannot be read during the take-off and landing phase of an airplane
“Sir, we’re taking off, please turn it off.” This the flight attendant will politely tell us. No flight attendant from any airline in the world will ever ask you to close your book. Reading is a very therapeutic activity in these moments. It eases the tension and pours it on the plot of the story you are reading. If we carry an ebook reader with us we have to face these moments, perhaps by squinting, but it is not the same thing as the book. Maybe bring one of poems, which is light, to be opened after the announcement “Gentlemen, the descent has begun…”.
7. An ebook cannot be used to put on a slamming door
If you wish to ventilate your house on a clear May morning by opening doors and windows, you cannot use an ebook to put on a door that slams due to the draft. A book can have the right thickness or even the volume, if hardcover, to implement this purpose. The ebook takes the wind away.
8. An ebook cannot be a clue to the tastes of your travel neighbor
By peeking at the covers of books opened by passengers traveling in the same commuter carriage, one can hear a kind of intellectual correspondence with those who share the same readings or the same authors. It is a feeling that gives great comfort on a cold winter morning. By observing people immersed in their devices, one can only measure the level of monadism that our time has reached.
9. An ebook will never become an antique
A book can last even a millennium without losing immediate use. Lasting this long, it becomes an antique and it appreciates over time. An ebook lasts as long as the technology that incorporates it, even if it is made with an open system. The content and form are totally ancillary to the medium that supports them. After 10 years, any technology is done.