Readers Read Everywhere

One of my favorite things about print books–the browsing process. I don’t tend to browse in an online bookstore, but put me in a shop and I can search around four hours. The LA Times has a lovely collection of photos of bookshops and people browsing for books across the globe. My favorite:

Make sure to click through for more bookstore photo goodness. A few of my favorite places to browse: Brookline Booksmith, Porter Square Books, Wellesley Books, and Trident Booksellers.

(image: Pedro Ribeiro Simoes)

Links Galore

A few links to round out the week:

In Favor of the E-book

Yesterday I talked about why I like physical books and what advantages they for readers. Most readers I know feel the same–they love books, they love holding books, they love the smell. (Heck, Giles agrees. How can I argue with Giles?)

So what about e-books? So far, I haven’t heard a lot of readers talk about how much better the e-reading experience is. Some people, like Jonathan Franzen, don’t even think an e-book counts as real reading. Do we need to gather the villagers and our pitchforks and run e-books out of town?

I say no. E-books have their place in the book world, too. Here are a few things I like about the e-reading experience:

4182802481_62c616de2a_b1. Your Library in your Suitecase
I avoided e-readers for a while, but then my husband and I were getting married and going on our honeymoon–keeping us away from our home libraries for more than two weeks. A big part of my vacation time includes reading, so it was a choice between bringing eight hard copies or investing in an e-reader. I was able to have a dozen books with me in a convenient little device.

2. Size Doesn’t Matter
Even when I’m not traveling, sometimes it’s not convenient to carry around a giant book. (I’m looking at you, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.) I’d end up leaving heavier books at home because they wouldn’t fit in my purse or would be too heavy to lug around all day, and it would take me much longer to finish them. On an e-reader, you can carry around Moby-Dick and War and Peace and the entire Harry Potter series in your purse.

3. New Books Without Leaving Your Home
On a snowy, sleety day like today, I’m tempted to crawl under the covers and never leave. Thanks to e-readers, I’d still be able to get new books. As awesome as it is to go to a library or bookstore, it is pretty cool to have a new book while I’d curled up on the couch.

6965382718_f22a157325_b4. No Library Fines
Permissions for e-books and  libraries are still a big issue, but I hope we see an increase in libraries that can offer electronic options. With regular books, you have to run back to the library on your due date or risk being fined. (Or as I like to think of it, you risk a donation to the library, which makes me feel better about myself.) With e-books, you simply lose access to your checked-out book on the due date. Way less hassle for readers.

5. Free Books
No, not just library books–you can download electronic versions of anything in the public domain for free. You want to read Franekstein? Get it now. How about Persuasion? It’s yours forever. When I first got my e-reader, I downloaded a bunch of classic novels. Getting them for free was a great excuse to dive into content I always thought about but never pursued as much as I should have.

6. Cheap Books
Okay, so maybe they’re not free, but there are still a lot of daily deals for e-books. If I see something available for $3 (as opposed to $10), I’m way more likely to download a copy than I would be to search for a hard copy–even a discounted one. I think this helps me take more purchasing risks. If it’s cheap and won’t take up space on my bookshelves, why not spend a couple bucks? And even if it’s not providing the publisher/author with the same amount of royalties, these are probably books I would have waited to get at the library anyway.

4506273004_ebde74350e_b7. Dictionaries at Your Fingertips
I admit–sometimes when I come across a new word in a paper book, I gloss over it and assume I’ll understand from the context. (Sorry, English teachers!) Usually it’s because I don’t have a dictionary with me. My e-reader, on the other hand, came with several dictionaries, so I there’s really no excuse to skip over unrecognizable words.

8. Organization
I always have great ideas about how I’ll organize my bookshelves, and inevitably they fall to disarray. But on my e-reader, I can create categories (like Classics or YA or Non-Fiction) and immediately sort books. That way, I always know where Jane Eyre is. On my bookshelves, it’s probably somewhere on the tall one? Maybe on the one by the kitchen?

So where does that leave us? Is one option better than the other? My opinion is no–they both have benefits and flaws, and they both have their place in my life as a reader. I’m not afraid that e-books will totally kill paper books, and even if they do eventually, that’s a long time coming.

At the end of the day, delivery method doesn’t concern me as much as story. Reading A Tale of Two Cities or Because of Winn-Dixie on an e-reader or as paper books still provides me the same story. As long as publishers keep giving me that, I’ll keep reading.

Are you on one side of the physical book vs. e-book debate? Share your thoughts in the comments!

(image 1: Gene Wilburn)(image 2: smohundro)(image 3: albertizeme)

In Favor of the Physical Book

One of the big discussions in publishing over the last few years has been about e-books and how they’re going to destroy paper books, or how paper books are naturally better and more readerly than e-books. I love a good argument, and I also love playing the devil’s advocate. So today starts a two-part series in which I look at the pros and cons of hard copies and their e-book counterparts.

33440_774475567606_5957005_nFirst up: the physical book.

These are what I think of when I think of books–bound pages, that nice papery-ink smell, arranged in rows on bookshelves. In fact, I’m always tempted to say “a real book” when comparing hard copies to e-books. Somehow having something to touch and smell makes it seem more real.

Of course, that could just be my own bias from growing up with physical books as the only option. (Note: I also don’t listen to audio books very often.) A few more reasons why I prefer hard copies:

1. Cover Art
Okay, they say never to judge a book by its cover. But cover design can be truly unique and beautiful. It’s an introduction to the book even before you read the first word. And it can connect you to a particular edition of that book. For example, when I was in eighth grade, I read my classroom library’s version of The Outsiders. It was the movie tie-in edition, but somehow the cover, with its sunset and the fading faces of actors, felt right. I asked for my own copy for Christmas and got a version with a different cover. I still read the book about a hundred times, but I never got used to this different cover image. This might be different for some of the more impressive e-readers, but mine only includes a hazy black-and-white image of a book’s cover–not nearly as appealing or as evocative of a book’s content.

2. The Ease of Turning Pages
I tend to be a fast reader, especially when I’m in the middle of a book I’m really invested in and I can’t wait to see what happens at the end. But sometimes that means I need to flip back to check on a particular detail. That’s way easier to do with a physical book than an e-book. It’s also easier to immediately see where you are in a book–“more than halfway there!”–and track your reading progress. And there’s something satisfying in physically turning that last page–not quite the same as clicking a button.

71906_774483481746_7191186_n3. Bookshelves
If I go to a friend’s house and they have bookshelves in full view, you can bet that’s where I’ll be. And similarly, bookshelves have a prominent place in my home. A personal library in full view can tell you so much about the person who has read the books, and can spark all sorts of conversations. Having books in plain sight can also be a good reminder of what you’ve read and inspire you to reread a particular book.

4. Sharing and Giving
Sometimes you finish a book and don’t necessarily need to have it on your bookshelves forever–but maybe your friend wants to read it. Although I’m sure there are ways to do it for e-readers, I find it much easier to share physical books. (Granted, I also hoard my books a lot; I’ve been burned by borrowers who become keepers.) Books also make the perfect gift–they’re easy to buy and (bonus) easy to wrap. This year, Walt gave me a copy of Our Town (because I need to cry some more) and inscribed a quote from Thornton Wilder in the front. That’s certainly not something you can do with a e-book.

5. Book Spying
One of my greatest complains about e-readers is that they don’t allow you to see what someone else is reading. I love seeing what people are reading on public transportation/at the doctor’s office/in line at the grocery store/etc. Once I was on the T and I saw someone reading Tuck Everlasting. I didn’t say anything, but it felt like I had an instant connection to my fellow T-rider. If that reader had gotten the e-book version, I would never have felt that readerly bond.

255093_953799341326_1075905_n6. Browsing
When I was young, my family took trips to the library and the bookstore. Most of the books I read were books I stumbled across. Maybe I’d heard about them beforehand, but a lot of times I’d find an interesting title, flip through the first few pages, and give it a whirl. Maybe they didn’t all end up as my favorite books ever, but the sense of discovery was exciting. I don’t tend to browse through Amazon or other online booksellers that much, even with lists of recommended or similar titles.

7. No On/Off Switch
E-readers are great if you’re traveling (more on that tomorrow) but hard copies don’t require you to charge them or turn them off while your plane takes off (an essential time to have a book, in case your seat partner feels chatty).

8. Signings
A couple times I’ve gotten an e-book and later seen that the author would be at a local bookstore or library for a signing. Bringing a Kindle and asking an author to sign that? Not as cool.

If you’re not convinced, check out these posts about the awesomeness of the printed book:

Other reasons you love physical books? Share in the comments!

The Neverending Love of Books and Bookstores

My friend Sarah writes about The Neverending Story, writing as a career, why physical books matter, and her search for the ideal bookstore:

“And then, of course, I moved to Salem and found Derby Street Books. I quietly freaked out a little when I first walked in and saw the stacks of books teetering over my head. But how often do you step into a childhood dream?

Everything was right. The literal taste of the air — dust and leaf litter and that tongue coating you get from breathing leather and ideas and mold — was right. Even the guy behind the counter was such a dead ringer for Carl I had to double check he wasn’t reading anything exceptionally magical. Derby Street Books is on a very short list of Perfect Places, along with a Perfect Bar, McSorley’s Old Ale House in Manhattan, a Perfect Restaurant in Corniglia, Italy, and a Perfect Park Bench, which is under a tree in Aberystwyth outside the National Library of Wales.”

She also quotes Giles from Buffy. Why yes, I do get to hang out with her on a regular basis. Seriously though, it’s a heartwarming literary read.

Keep Calm and Carry a Book

In the ongoing debate about books vs. e-books, a little rationality:

“According to McKeown, the data, from Verso’s third annual survey, suggest that print and digital books will coexist for a long time. McKeown based that prediction on several trends: the number of readers who do not intend to buy a reading device seems to be solidifying at around half of all readers, and even among digital device owners the preference seems to be to buy both print and digital books. According to the survey, conducted November 30–December 4, 51.8% of book buyers said they are unlikely to buy a reading device, up from 49.0% in the 2010 survey and 40.2% in the 2009 survey. (In the most recent survey, 15.8% of book buyers already owned a reading device, up from 2.9% in 2009.)”

I consider myself in this group. I have an e-reader that I really enjoy for its convenience. I can pack it easily in most purses and enjoy several books if I’m traveling over a long period of time (ie, more than few days). But physically, I prefer the feel of a traditional book. I like being able to flip back easily or immediately see how much I have left to read. Both varieties of text offer me better ways to read. It’s not like the introduction of the CD or MP3, where I was getting a much better experience without any drawback. Even if e-readers take over eventually, I think it’s going to be a much longer haul.

Books and e-books unite!

Launching the Stars

Last night was the launch event for John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars book tour, and I was lucky enough to go. The kick-off was hosted by Wellesley Books, a fantastic local bookstore. (Thanks to them, I’ve gotten to see Shannon Hale and Suzanne Collins, too.) Since John and his brother Hank are kind of internet superstars, the event was ticketed and was held at the Wellesley Middle School due to size.

I was toward the back of the line into the event, so by the time I made it inside the auditorium was pretty full. But it was so exciting to hear the cheers of the crowd before the event even started. Usually you get this kind of reaction at concerts or sporting events. Hundreds of teens and young adults were bouncing around at the thought that soon John and Hank would take the stage. The vibe was electric.

Since these are the vlog brothers, this obvious wasn’t your average reading. The event opened with a sock puppet show, followed by a brief reading of The Fault in Our Stars, included a couple of funny question-and-answer rounds (one of which ended with punishment–sorry Hank) and a couple of song sessions. Audience members sang along, shouted out questions, and cheered whenever the Katherine appeared. I went to a Green Brothers event a few years ago–for Paper Towns, I think–and the energy was even stronger here. It’s so awesome to see so many young people who are so excited by books, by making the world a better place, by connecting with one another, and by funny songs about Harry Potter.

Since I forgot my camera and my phone refused to be functional, I borrowed my husband’s phone and took these very sad pictures. I like to think that the problem was with my lack of knowledge about his phone’s camera feature, but I don’t think that’s really the problem. In any case:

Here’s John reading from the first couple chapters of The Fault in Our Stars. He wore a suit when he first came out but changed into jeans and a t-shirt later. Does that mean John suits up for his novels? Is this a comment about the sartorial aspects of the literary life? Am I thinking too much about pants?


Here’s Hank and his guitar. One of his songs was written for The Fault in Our Stars and it was really lovely. When he played “Shake-a-Booty” everyone got up and danced. It was a-dor-a-ble.

The line for signing was insane, so I got to read about half of The Fault in Our Stars before the evening was over. As a mini-review, so far it’s great. It might be my favorite of Green’s novels so far–a nice combination of witty dialogue, depth of character, and big ideas about life and death.

A few other fun things from the event:

  • Lots of people talking about Doctor Who. My heart!
  • Hearing other Nerdfighters befriend each other.
  • Talking to people in line for the signing.
  • John liked my scarf. And he says he doesn’t notice fashion!
  • I think one of the Wellesley people hosting the event went to the same summer writing camp I did when I was in high school. Enter awkward book stalking?

I didn’t get home until almost midnight, but it was well worth it. I’m sure all the subsequent book tour events will be just as fun; Nerdfighters across the country are in for a treat.

Maybe a The Fault in Our Stars 15-word review on Friday forthcoming?

A Book is a Gift that Keeps on Giving

One of my favorite bookstores is Brookline Booksmith, which is a short walk from my apartment. (Hurray!) On their blog today, Emily talks about how the best books are given from the heart. They create an intimate connection between the giver and the receiver–the giver wants to share something personal they felt, or wants the receiver to experience a similar joy, etc. Gifts, and books in particular, are personal.

Her post reminded me of my friend Akshay who always give books to friends–not just on their birthday, or because they did something gift-worthy, just because he thinks that person will enjoy the book. Sometimes the books are new; sometimes they’re his old copy. He doesn’t make a big show about it or expect anything in return. He’s a very generous book-giver. I think it would be great if more people swapped books with the same enthusiasm. Maybe that’ll be my resolution this year. (After losing not one but two copies of The Princess Bride, I have a tendency to hoard my books.)

What kinds of books do you give away, and to whom?