Books Will Never Die

Last week, Mireille Silcoff wrote an article for The New York Times: On Their Death Bed, Books Have Finally Become Sexy.

Given that I recently published a blog post, “Sexiest Book Alive,” I took issue with the idea that physical books have ever NOT been sexy. Then I read the piece, and I took serious issue with some other things, indeed.

First, I will commend Silcoff for being one of those who “can’t yet bring themselves to read on a Kindle or an iPad.” She and I at least agree on that. AND she references Seinfeld. Twice. So.

However, she says that the “Death of the Book has loomed” since “the e-book has been outselling the paper kind on Amazon since 2011.” That is true. However, the decline of physical book sales slowed in 2012; and, in 2013, “physical book sales stayed strong,” even if the effects of the e-book revolution are “far from over.”

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Really, then, at this point there’s not much to worry about when it comes to the sale of physical books. I know that, considering the amount of us that prefer, as Silcoff does, the “intimacy” of a physical book, we will keep buying them, and loving them, and reading them.

Silcoff then discusses the recent “hard-copy bibliomania that has without question sprung up along the banks of digital reading,” and for a moment I felt heartened, as she mentions her peer group that pines for “floor-to-ceiling-bookshelves” that is her generation’s “No. 1, most-desired dΓ©cor scheme.” For transparency’s sake, I must admit I have a bank of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in my basement. My father, a gifted carpenter, built them for me when my husband and I bought our first home together. The shelves are beautiful, as are the (alphabetically-ordered, not color-coded) books on them. But I digress.

Silcoff suggests that “all this recent paper-book love does seem like nostalgia’s natural progression,” and given the recent trend of people buying vinyl records, I do see a parallel and have to say that she might be right on this point. New advances in technology always bring about a desire for something simpler. I know, as a parent and teacher, I ardently pine for the days of teaching and parenting without social media and cellphones. Really, it IS possible to get through a class period – heavens, even a day! – without checking Facebook. Or Snapchat. Again, I digress.

Then I encountered the troubling portion of Silcoff’s piece, wherein I read about the horrifying trend of people using books as props. BOOKS AS PROPS, people, and this goes far beyond the Seinfeld reference about Kramer’s coffee table book that can also double as a coffee table. That was Seinfeld. It was funny because it was Kramer, and, like many of his harebrained schemes, it would never work.

This new trend of using books as props as “Seasonal DΓ©cor” or for “Any Occasion,” as listed by vendor beachbabyblues on Etsy, is, to me, a heinous misuse of books. Humanities and book-lover that I am, I believe – as do others, I’m sure – that books are invaluable to us as informed members of a literate society. If people now consider books as props, I understand, then, why some might pronounce the physical book dead. If Lauren Conrad can post a video of how to make a “‘unique storage space'” using cut-up book spines (even if it was, eventually, taken down after Buzzfeed (Buzzfeed!) called it “‘the worst craft idea ever'”), then we – and books – have a serious problem.

Here is my response to the trend of using books as, among other things, table centerpieces: Books are not decorations, but in their contents we find ornaments for our minds.

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If, as Silcoff says, “The number of books in the world today is literally uncountable,” shouldn’t we be putting them to better use than decorations? Why wouldn’t we share that “uncountable” amount of knowledge with people and places who would appreciate it? A friend of mine at work spoke recently of a friend of hers who went to teach in Uganda, and how the students there thirsted for knowledge and appreciated the education provided to them. An influx of books would do them much more good than would using a book as party favor.

While I concede I find Jonathan Callan’s art stunning, even his work gives me brain-shivers as I think of who might, instead, have read those books and learned from them.

Books will always have “continuity.” Atticus Finch’s advice to Scout about walking around in someone else’s shoes remind me to consider the experiences of others. August Pullman’s experience reminds me that even in terrible situations, the good in people shines. Beatrice’s (Shakespeare’s, not Dante’s) razor-tipped tongue reminds me that sharp-witted women are strong, and can achieve what they want without compromising. Katniss’s reticence reminds me that I don’t always have to be liked, or be the bubbly girl on stage, to make a difference. Elizabeth Bennet’s process of self-realization reminds me that sometimes, I have to take a step back and remember that being mouthy isn’t always the answer.

What greater form of continuity can books offer? Physical books continue because they teach lessons about life, as Grapes of Wrath continues to do, and because, as readers, we learn those lessons. The continuity of books means the continuity of society as we continue to learn from and about each other, and apply that knowledge to the future, so that maybe – just maybe – we don’t continue to make the same mistakes as those who came before us.

No, books are not on their deathbed, and as far as I’m concerned, they never will be.

270 thoughts on “Books Will Never Die

  1. Love it! My sis and I grew up reading and are still avid real book readers. We often talk about loving the way real books smell πŸ™‚

      • Just a short comment on your excellent post.
        I sit here next to bookcases filled with paperbacks, hardbacks, bio, auto bio, fiction, nonfiction etc. I love handling them and reading passages. Also, I have a kindle which I enjoy a lot. When I take it to the gym to read while on the elliptical I have a library with me.
        For me it’s not either-or. I am older but, surprisingly, I am a fan of the Kindles.

  2. Brilliant post and so very, very true! I don’t think I would ever be able to get rid of all my books even if I was forced to use an e-book (they’re brilliant if you’re using for academic purposes but for a complete physical bookworm like me, little else!) Really, really well done!
    Phoenixflames12 x

  3. I saw the Silcoff piece as well and found this idea of books simply as physical decor bizarre. I like your idea that the role of books in enriching our mental decor is much more important. Your comment about continuity strikes a chord as well. I have a collection of Balzac novels my mother loved to read as a young girl. To both handle and read these reminds me of her, of the love of reading she passed along to me, and the kinds of stories she enjoyed. I posted on the Silcoff article on my blog as well–would love your comments: http://rtrube54.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/a-new-life-for-physical-books/

  4. I don’t think books will ever die. I’d like to have my own library in my future home. πŸ™‚

    Just reading a book is just half of a fun. Readers usually discuss them, share them and it doesn’t look like publishers would like us to share our legally bought e-books or audiobooks. I can’t believe I’d stop reading physical books, especially during travels. And I can’t believe I would be able to go to any country and not buy books. Books in travels, only physical! http://forculturessake.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/books-for-travels/

  5. As an interior designer I’m often asked for colour coordinated books by the yard.
    Judging a book by its cover in this way is sacrilege to me. But I smile and nod and find colour coordinated books by the yard in the hope that one day, may be, one of these books might be plucked from the shelf, and handled, and read and cherished. As it was intended to be, and not demoted to being used as a prop.

      • Well, people in Victorian times used to bind all of their books the same (you’d get the pages from the publisher, but would pay a different guy to give you the covers), so they essentially were all unified colour by the yard. I’ve worked in older libraries which have a corporate dress for their books. It’s kind of monotonous and prevents you from remembering the colour of a title, but you can see why vain people wanted it, and it means if your friends don’t return your books you can recognise them on sight (because your covers are unique to you).

  6. Good post. You’ll be pleased to hear I bought my 11 year old a Kindle and she refuses to read on it, saying ‘it’s just not the same.’ There is hope for books yet!

    • that is great! my daughter is an avid reader and only reads “real books” too – and she’s 14. I read my young son real books every night too – our home is filled with them. thank you for reading.

  7. Every year my father (knowing how much of a reader I am) asks me if I want an ebook reader. Every year I tell him no. Whenever asked what possession I would first save if my house were to go up in flames, I say my books. Whenever someone asks what one item I would bring on a deserted island, I say a book. So long as I am alive (and many others like me), you’re right: books will never die.

    However, I will say that I use books as decor occasionally. Not the let’s-just-put-them-out-because-they-look-nice, but cutting them up and turning them into art. I always use copies of my favorite books, always old, word, falling apart copies, and I absolutely love it because all around me are excerpts or pages from my favorite novels. I think sometimes, book-art can be a good thing. Many people who visit my home would never read certain books on their own, but after seeing a certain part in one of my artworks, they have at least read some of it, and sometimes it even encourages them to go out and read the whole thing.

    • I have an iPad, but I just cannot read books on it very well, unless it is for work and I am editing it.

      About your art: if the book art leads others to read, then I have no argument with it at all – your art sounds like it would be interesting. Do you have pictures?

      thank you for reading!

      • I have an iPad as well, but my boyfriend and son use it far more than I do. Staring at a screen for too long gives me horrible headaches.

        I don’t think I have any pictures, we recently moved into a smaller space so a lot of my stuff is still stored in the basement and a lot of my old photos didn’t make it. But, for example, I made my dad a guitar-book-watch-clock, in which I took apart an old guitar and used the back, flat, body piece, and cut a hole in the middle for the clock. I cut up a cardboard guitar (I still don’t remember where I found it) for the neck, then covered the whole thing with pages of my favorite book. I then gathered 12 old, broken watches, took the bands off, and set them all to a different hour. Then placed the actual clock (without numbers) in the middle, so when it’s 2:00 the hands of the real clock will point to the broken watches set to 12:00 and 2:00 (in the proper spaces). Whenever I look at the time I can’t help but read at least a paragraph as well.

        In another, I made a waste basket out of rolled-up magazine pages, but also put lines from certain books on the outside of the rolled-up pages so when I put it all together, each level had it’s own quotes, if that makes sense.

        I do salvage art, so I only make things out of other things. I also made a doll, that doubles as a lock-box, out of an old watch box and a bunch of other random things. That has some quotes in it as well. My favorite is probably a cat sculpture out of only car parts.

      • I’m mixed on that, because I have a heap more books at home which I have not read than those I’ve read. I recently sent a third of them to charity and I think I still have a thousand or so. To what extent is keeping around all of my “someday” books using them as props?

      • I have several to-be-read piles, but not nearly that many. I don’t think in your case they’re props. By props I mean centerpieces, decorations only, etc.

  8. How I’d love to agree with you. Those monks probably thought that they were going to churn out illuminated manuscripts forever (now they’re sexy). Paperbacks were never going to replace hardbacks. Any sensible person will tell you that hard copies are preferable to ebooks. Any sensible person of a certain age. I’m doing my best with my grandsons by taking them to the library once a week but it’s only a matter of time before libraries replace those musty old books. Think of the savings. All I can suggest is that you (as I am doing) start collecting. πŸ™‚

    • I definitely collect! I have a collection of older books (oldest is a book of Shelley’s poetry from late 1800s) and then of course I keep almost all of my contemporary books.

  9. Books wont be dying in my house! No way! Got my collection saved for my 2 year old girl! Great post, loved reading it!

  10. I have to agree πŸ™‚ Give me a paper book to read any day! It’s so much more pleasant to sit outside on a nice day reading a physical book as opposed to a Kindle

  11. I enjoyed reading this. Although I am able to read ebooks via my tablet/phone/etc, there is NOTHING like having the physical book in my hands! Especially when it comes to marginalia – an ebook just can’t compare. I love being able to return to a book months, and even years later, to see how I interacted with the author. Thanks for writing this.

  12. Ah yes! We will keep them alive, and teach our kids to do so as well!! Technology evolves rapidly, trends come and go, but physical books will live on!

  13. I totally agree, I love going to Library book sales and whenever I go to garage or estate sales I head straight for the book section. I am actually currently working on a post regarding how much you can tell about a person from their book collection. I adore books and whilst I do use a kindle (particularly for travel) and read online I always go back to them. Books never run out of battery, they don’t have a screen that exacerbates eye strain, they don’t lose your place and they don’t randomly decide to stop working or delete themselves… in short… books are more reliable than technology πŸ™‚

    • When my husband and I were looking for our home, I secretly judged the homeowners based on how many books they did – or did not – have. I’d love to see your post when you’re done! Thank you for reading.

      • Oh my gosh! I totally did this too!!! My husband thought I was crazy hahaha. He kept saying, “we are not here to look at books, their taste in reading does not impact us buying this house”.

      • While the book inventory didn’t impact us buying a house, existing bookshelves did! And now thanks to my dad I have more πŸ™‚

      • We have ended up building as we couldn’t find what we wanted and it ended up cheaper to build (surprising right?!). Bookshelves are definitely in the plans πŸ™‚

  14. Thank you for posting this. It was a beautifully written, thought-provoking read. While I am new to the blogging Universe (Multiverse?), and I tend to maintain the lowest level of technological sophistication possible for someone at the shallow end of the Gen X pool, I am trying to branch out for the sake of my writing. I’m also sending out cyber-rootlets for the sake of my creativity.

    That being said, I will add that there is nothing sexier than floor-to-ceiling, built-in bookshelves crammed with well-loved tomes, with every spare surface bearing a rotating selection of obviously friendly books, covered in years of eye tracks and thought prints. It’s a space I’d want to live in, and it tells me that the person who does is one I really need to have in my life. They, like the books they obviously surround themselves with, have things to teach me, things worth hearing. Thanks again!

  15. Very interesting article. I guess I have never been prejudice when it came to where I read a book. I have found it be fun and revitalizing to use the Nook and read my books, and classic and original when I read real books. Both of them give me a hidden pleasure that I love ! I would love your support and others! #followforfollowback

  16. I love this post! But I have to say, I resisted buying an e-reader for awhile, and I really wish I had bit the bullet sooner. I’m a student, which means I have to lug heavy textbooks, notebooks, and laptops around (it is impossible for me to study on a screen – you can’t write, highlight, or circle anything! Well, you could, but its complicated, and much easier to just do with a pencil!). With all that crap to carry, I just can’t carry fiction around too, especially because I read so fast, so I would have to bring at least two or three additional books with me at all times. The e-book completely solves that problem. I still buy the physical version of the books I really love for re-reading, but it is great to be able to upload a lot of books onto one light device to carry around while travelling. I also love borrowing e-books from the library, it’s a quick way to sample books that I might like, and then I can go buy them knowing that they are worth the investment!

  17. Wonderful and heartening post! I sometimes feel like a dinosaur because I don’t have any kind of electronic reader, but I love the complete sensory experience of real books way too much. A paper book engages the senses in a way an electronic one can’t. And I can’t help but feel a bit nervous about a completely digitized world without books on paper–one nasty computer virus and we could lose far too much. So I’ll keep my own floor-to-ceiling basement bookshelves, too. πŸ™‚

  18. Fantastic post! This has been a subject of great debate with many of my friends and acquaintances recently. I will always take a real book over an ebook. The only time I buy ebooks is in support of Indie authors who only publish that way. Thank you for taking the time to share your insights.

  19. I volunteer at an organization that collects used books from residents in my local community and then sends those books to Peace Corps missions. Never in the organizations 40-odd year history have they seen a sustained slackening of requests from around the world for used books. In fact, the internet has only made us more visible, which has increased the number of requests we’ve been getting for books. Volunteering there has only affirmed my belief that people have an innate hunger for books.

  20. I agree with everything you said. If people want to use books as decorations they need to go at it the right way. Books themselves are not decorations, but the image or concept of a book is. There are many bookends that are crafted too look like books. The other day I saw a post where someone painted bricks to look like books and used them to dΓ©cor their garden. The examples are endless. Actual books should be read and shared not destroyed beyond the ability to do what they were meant to do.

  21. If what matters is the content of a book, why should it matter whether the content is in an electronic form or not? I love physical books. But I love them for more than their content. There IS something aesthetic about books. I think much of the nostalgia stems from a fear that ebooks have taken something essential away from the reading experience. Ebooks are cheaper but people don’t get to hold individual, custom made books in their hands. While I own the Kindle, I often miss reading a book and then placing it on a shelf. A book seems more concrete than an ebook. You say, “Physical books continue because they teach lessons about life…” But ebooks can teach the same lessons. At least for me, my usual preference for physical books has less to do with the writing and more to do with the other features of a book (the binding, the cover art, the feeling that I am reading something that is distinct and unique from other works).

    • You make a point I wrestled with during and after writing the post, and no, the content doesn’t change with the format of the book. You are also correct, though, that there is a “fear that ebooks have taken something essential away from the reading experience.” Ebooks are not even necessarily cheaper, and then the problem is that you don’t own the book and can’t take it, as I do with some of my daughter’s, to a used bookstore to share the experience of the book – it remains, so to speak, forever on your e-reading device.

      Also, I can’t help but always think of Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 when discussing the differences between ebooks/physical books and merits of either. Ebooks are easy to transport, and they would survive a fireman’s visit to my home, but they are also easily altered and changed. Not to be entirely fatalistic, but there’s some of that going on as well.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      • …also paper books do not require a power source to be read, at least while the sun is up, and can be lent/given away one at a time instead of one’s whole library being embedded in one device. (I bought a hard copy of The Grapes of Wrath for my daughter’s 21st birthday – she is a digital native but still loves real books)

      • One of the things I love most about owning real books is visiting used bookstores and trading for new books. While I do keep almost all of my books, some of those that I read and my daughter reads we do take and trade. It’s always heartening to go back and see that the books we took in are gone, and know that someone else is enjoying a new adventure!

  22. Physical books cannot die. Heaven forbid, my daughter is not even two yet, and we have yet to put up the first of her bookshelves. Great post! πŸ™‚

    • My son is 19 months – he has a bookshelf in his room, but it’s for the books he can’t read yet because he’d destroy them. The board books we read are in a bin in the living room, because he’s always after me to read them! Thank you for reading and commenting.

      • My daughter is 19 months old too. We have her board books by the bed, and every night we have an hour or more of reading and re-reading them. I can very much relate with your experience with the hands-off books – I had to tape the page edges of Where The Wild Things Are because she always wants to be the one to turn the pages! πŸ™‚

  23. Sad as it is to say, books as decoration I find to be quite common, even among avid readers. Often, it involves a multiple-copy situation. I always have to chuckle when I see my wife reading a battered, worn paperback of, say, The Fellowship of the Ring.

    “Don’t we have a new, leather-bound edition of that?”
    “Yes, but that’s the nice one for the bookshelf. This is my field copy.”
    “Field copy? But… we’re at home! Why aren’t you reading the nice one?”
    “Accidents happen; just imagine how bad I’d feel if I dropped the leather copy or something. If any pages are going to get bent, I’d rather it be in this dollar store edition.”
    “So… you payed thirty dollars for the nice one… that you’re not going to read?!”
    “Yup.”
    “Well, if I may be so bold…”
    “No. No, you may not.”

    Excellent post!

    • I, too, have certain books that are the ones I “love” and ones that I “admire.” My late-1800s copy of Percy Shelley’s poetry, for instance, I admire, while I love and read the more recent paperback version of the same – my old books, though, are not decorations, but reminders of how long books have been around, how many people have loved them, and how they will continue to live through various means. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  24. When I was a kid I noticed how my favourite books didn’t ‘read’ the same way as they did when I was reading the original copy. Do the words actually switch themselves round on the paper?
    I still have my first copy of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and can’t bear to read it in any other form.

    • I have several copies of P&P – one is my teaching copy, the other is my reading for pleasure copy, etc. we form sentimental attachments not only to the characters in and contents of a book, but also to the way we were when we read it the first time. I believe that’s one of the reasons why physical books will always be here and important and so very necessary. thank you for reading and commenting.

    • My husband is a reader too, and he understands, so never have I heard him say, “Don’t you have enough books?” Thank you for reading and commenting.

      • Ooh, lucky you! Actually, except for moving, mine doesn’t really complain that much. He wouldn’t dare as he knows my answer would be that I’ll lose the books as soon as he gets rid of all his man toys…er…collectibles. He did get excited when eReaders came out, but I quickly squashed that dream. Lol. πŸ˜‰

  25. Hello ,
    As the owner of the Etsy shop BEACHBABYBLUES , (referred to, in the article) I would like to mention,that ironically ,the majority of the books I purchase are from the local LIBRARY sale . I spend more money there than anywhere else, thus supporting the opportunity for others to continue to have access to books they will read. I leave that sale having purchased more books than any other proprietor there. The other source, I purchase from is through a Second Hand Shop ,in which the proceeds go to the local EDUCATIONAL foundation. Thus , supporting local schools K through 12. Also ironically ~ the foundation just recently purchased several ipads, so that children could read eBooks .

    I don’t really understand how , it is deemed offensive , that books are considered a decorative item ~ Otherwise, all books would be printed on plain white paper with plain white covers . It seems obvious to me, that the cover of a book has been a selling feature for centuries . In my opinion, living in this Country, with its wasteful over-indulgence and a demand for excess ; it is much better to purchase and resell a book for the purpose of having it be decorative, than the alternative have having it thrown away ~

    I found the article interesting and having been mentioned , felt it worthwhile to provide my input.

    Thank you for your time ~
    Susan

    • Hello Susan!

      First, let me say that I linked to your account because you were mentioned in the Silcoff article, and since she didn’t provide a link to you, I wanted to in order to give you credit for the fact that your work was mentioned.

      Second, thank you for your support of local libraries and educational charities – as a teacher, ANY additional funding sent the way of students is a bonus. Have you seen the bumper sticker about maybe the army should have to hold bake sales instead of schools? It is frighteningly accurate and so very sad.

      Finally, you are right – it IS much better to resell a book and use it constructively than having to throw it away. As long as they’re being read first (which, you’ve pointed out, they are), and therefore enriching lives. I never did call it offensive – I just find it sad that some people would prefer books as decorations instead of as things to read.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate your voice.

      • Hi Heather ~
        I really appreciate the link ~ it was very thoughtful of you !
        In my opinion , Silcoff ~ should not have quoted me , without providing the link . So, I did want to thank you !! I am sorry that I forgot to mention that to you before .

        I enjoy being able to contribute toward Libraries and Educational organizations . I wish the lotto system would do what it promised , for schools ~ Its extremely sad, that there is not more value placed the education of our future generations .

        Offensive was the wrong word ~ I was trying to convey my thoughts of ~ not understanding how displaying the beauty of a book could offend. And I do understand the desire to have the books enjoyed as something to read and not just filling up a space ~ To ease some of the concern , plenty of my customers purchase books for the purpose of increasing their home library ~ with the books that are used, as decor on their wedding tables ~ because they love to read !!!
        I do sell books for their pure value as the book they were intended to be for their original purpose . It is always gratifying when I find a first edition or a classic , because I know it will be passed on to someone who will love it too !

        It has been fun reading your blog and the comments regarding this issue ~

        Have a pleasant day ,
        Susan

  26. Great blog. Sentiment agreed with. E-books have their place but passing on a joy of books to a new generation is so much easier with something tangible -even if all they know is electronic

  27. As a teacher i use to go to my students homes as a gesture of education. I was always amazed that the good student had a home with books in it. And the not so good student had a home devoid of reading material. I loved when they started giving away old reads from the library. Anything to encourage reading and opening up the mind.

  28. I love real books. I also love reading on my iPad. I have set it to be a sepia toned, two page arrangement that looks like a real book. Now, nothing is going to replace actual live books for me–i have shelves of childrens books and YA and adult books and cookbooks–I just cannot stop myself. Every year or so I try and “purge” down to a normal amount and always end up buying the books again at a yardsale or thrift shop or library sale. I am excitedly looking forward to the next library sale, even though I have nothing particular in mind. There is almost always a book to pick up. πŸ™‚

    I have found the iPad to be the most use (for me) when stuck in waiting rooms or traveling. I read, on average, a book a day. Over a week vacation this stacks up to a bunch of suitcase space!

    I will confess I have thought about using books as decor. The idea of color coordinated books is appealing to me, since I already own them and can identify them by shape and size. Even if they were being used for “decoration”….they’d still get picked up and used, especially now that my seven year old has discovered the joy of chapter books.

    Hurray for reading and actual books! ❀

    • I understand the merit of the iPad or e-reader for travel – I just haven’t been able to bring myself to use one for that! I like to interact with my books too much, I think – especially when using a book to teach. I write a lot in the margins and so I think I will forever be stuck with physical books (not that I mind, as you know) :). Thank you for reading and commenting.

  29. I agree with you – books will never be on the deathbed. This is something I’ve read a lot about – whether paper-books are “on the brink of extinction”. Personally, I don’t think that will ever happen. Definitely not as long as there are people like you and me (and many others, I’m sure).
    I loved the way you illustrated how books have continuity.
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! Great post!

  30. Nicely done. Books as props? Hmmm….it seems to me there was a guest of Jay Gatsby who was quite amazed that his library’s books were real. Imagine.

    • Too true! I didn’t even think of that when writing this! Then again, most of Gatsby’s guests were highly intoxicated. I’m sure they say Heffalumps and Woozles, too. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  31. I hope dead-tree books will not disappear. I love walking through the maze of a used book store, discovering treasures, reading on the beach with my lounge chair plunked down in a shallow tidal pool. With Barnes & Noble on the ropes, though, I fear my grandchildren my look upon my collection of books the way my kids look at my CD collection.

    • I certainly hope not – some of my favorite places ever are the used bookstores we visit in Boulder, CO. The smell is nearly intoxicating. thank you for reading and commenting.

  32. Books are not paper and covers they are words. A book is no less a book or more of a book on a Kindle than on a scroll or if someone reads it to me.

  33. I think books will go the way of vinyl. In that, a majority of the population will read books digitally, but a select minority will appreciate the paper book.

  34. I could never give up books! I’ll never understand those who just buy books for their kindle or e-reader. It just doesn’t compare to buying, reading, and having an acrual book to hold.

  35. Loved your post, informative as well as entertaining. I went to the kindle, then quickly went back to paper books. You cannot replace either the smell or the feel. I also love to go on a random book hunt in charity shops, I have to be dragged away. So, here’s to books, both old and new, may they never die!

  36. I agree with the sentiment of your post. Books will never stop being important, powerful, learning tools. They open so many intellectual and emotional doors for those who allow them to. Books do face a commercial reality however, and while I agree that they’ll never go extinct, the E-book movement will continue to pose challenges for traditional paper publishing.

  37. I’ll never trade my books for a kindle. If nothing else – if absolutely nothing else – a kindle will never smell like a book. And it certainly will never smell like every different book.

    But there are other things. A smooth screen is but one texture. There is no rugged, bumpy page, no semi-jagged machine-cut edges, no raised ink, no smooth, sheening paper. You cannot get the satisfying, soft phhhhfwpt of running all the pages past your nose for the smell. And I always feel lost going through words on a screen, like I’m not making any progress. I can’t see where I am in the book. The only real thing the kindle has on my books is it would be easier to save all of my books on a kindle than in book form in case of a fire.

    I’m also really glad I’m not the only one who cringes in awe at gorgeous book art that involved defiling the book. I mean, it is truly beautiful art…but…but the book! The poor book! How could you ever, ever do that to a book!

  38. Reading is a lost art and books will forever be a treasure…there is something personal about reading a tangible book as opposed to something digital

  39. I’m a librarian and read about 115 books a year. I read on a Kindle, computer, Nook, Ipad, paperback books and hardback books… I don’t really care… I love reading and the form matters not to me.

  40. Thankyou for your excellent thoughts! You bring to mind the times I’ve enjoyed dining out in Restaurants With Actual Decor; particularly, of several occasions in finding a shelf above the interior seating, artistically angled books of pleasing vintage pendently gracing one’s meal; when I once, as a youth–and will never do this again–placed napkins on the seat, and stood to oggle the titles, enjoy the texture, and otherwise fawn over bindings I’d surely want to take home. Although unknown, they were old, and, most importantly, were missing from my collection; when, peering closer, on tiptoe, waiting to be busted by an approaching waitress–parents absent for the ritual washing-up–I noticed that all six or eight volumes were only (whisper with me, now, in horror)…covers wrapped around blocks of wood. I sat back down in disgust. I don’t even remember the dinner, or the city; just…those hollowed-out books; and how suddenly empty I felt.

    PS–I did a fond double on your use of the more logically-ordered overseas dating, flashing back to a period of a relocated childhood.

  41. I agree!! I have a love affair with books, and I refuse to go “kindle”. I have to have that physical contact with the book and then proudly display once finished enjoying!

  42. As far as being like furniture, they are in a manner of speaking. Furniture is the expression of their owner’s psyche to their guests. It gives them guideposts as to what sort of person you are. When dating in college, however it wasn’t so much the furniture, we couldn’t afford much, it was the books and CDs the potential mate owned. If they had interesting books, I figured they were a winner. I remember eyeing their bookshelves while they were out of the room. There is no way eBooks are going to replace that, well, at least not yet.

    • They are a feature of a home, but I think they reveal more of what sort of person someone is than furniture can ever do (as you illustrated when you talked about dating in college). Bookshelves-and, to your point, CD collections-are always telling πŸ™‚ Thank you for reading and commenting!

  43. Interesting read. I however must confess that when I first got my iPad waaay back, my kindle App became an instant addiction. It now feels somewhat ‘odd’ when I hold a real book. Either way I say, as long as the content hits home, whatever stirs your coffee…

    • Very true – to each his or her own – and the content is what is most important. But I still love holding a book πŸ™‚ Thank you for reading and commenting.

  44. Brilliant! I do read ebooks, but I always get a hard copy of my very favorite ones – there is nothing like holding a book, touching it, smelling it, turning the pages when each of them takes you farther into the book’s wonderful world…

      • It is a great post and worth reading. As you say, a movie was never able to give me goosebumps all over while a book can easily make that happen from the first chapter

  45. Excellent post! I couldn’t agree more – to have the physicality of a book in one’s hand. To have all of our senses aroused, needs to be experienced while reading. Books decorate my soul. Be well. ~Karen~

  46. Very good post! I, too, love the physicality of the printed page along with something that may or may not go by way of the Model T–handwriting. I truly love to write in long-hand, within my hardback journal. True, I do have on-line journals, but nothing compares to the sound of my BIC pen across the smooth surface of paper, IMHO. Also, I deeply enjoy wonderful found treasures in Goodwill; it’s astonishing what folks give away!

  47. Good post. I would like to give a different perspective on the physical vs the digital book. And that is a writer’s perspective. There is a reason why so many writers have moved over to the kindle and the eReaders. Because publishers treat writers like crap. The writer writes the book. Does the marketing. And in many cases is the reason his or her sells well. And the publisher takes 90 percent of the money. Unless you are a celebrity or some famous person, publishers just don’t want to give you the time of day. As a writer, you spend two years working on a novel. You used to spend your hard earned cash boxing it up and mailing it out, only to get a reject six months later. Now you can send it email, but it may still be six months later.

    So a writer might spend five years before she finds a publisher to accept her book. Then it’s another two years before it hits the book stores. If it doesn’t sell well in three months, it’s pulled from the shelves. And often the books are rejected for the most insane reasons. “Oh, we have already published our quota of those kind of books this season” may just be the most reasonable of rejections a writer gets.

    This is why so many writers are turning to eBooks to publish. And I am not talking just about people who write bad books. I am talking about very polished works. What convinced me that digital publishing was the wave of the future was an article I read in the Huffington Post two or three years ago by a published novelist. She had several young adult novels published and each had sold well. In the new novel she sent to her publisher, she had an eighteen year old heroine. It was rejected, not because she didn’t write a great story. They said that the heroine was too old for juvenile readers and too young for adult readers. The author sent it to a number of other publishers. All rejected it for the same reason. Finally she published it on the kindle. Did her readers reject it? They did not. Author after author has seen the same results. If publishing of hardback and paperback books is dying, the reason is because the industry has been taken over by accountants, the same kind of people who run the movie and music business these days.

    Basically the publishers have become packagers and distributors. When Amazon pays a writer 70 percent of the sales as opposed to 10 percent, and the writer is doing all the work, then what benefit is there to going with a traditional publisher.

    If I sound angry, you bet I am. The days of Bennet Cerf and other great publishers are gone. There was a time when a publisher would take a gamble on an unknown writer who had talent. The publisher knew his first book would not sell well but three books later that writer would be on the bestseller list. If you take a look at the New York Times Bestseller list, most, if not all, of the writers on the fiction list have had a number of novels published before his latest hit the list. Just two instances of very popular writers are John Grisham and Dan Brown.

    Sure you are going to find Charles Dickens and Jane Austen at your local booksellers. You will find J D Salinger and Mark Twain and Lorrie Moore (maybe) on their shelves. Just after Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for Literature last year, I went into my local Barnes and Noble and checked the shelves. Not one of her books were on the shelves. And this is happening to writer after writer. The graphic novel sections are growing. The toys are filling shelves that used to go to books. And there is a perfectly good reason. Economics.

    With a digital book, there is not a need for inventory and you can find so many out of print books for them. For years I went looking for certain novels by Balzac. They just weren’t out there. Now I can find them thanks to Project Guttenburg and kindle and the nook.

    And just so no one mistakes that I dislike physical books and don’t believe they are works of art, ask the six or seven hundred volumes on my shelves. I love a well-made book, especially those made by the Library of America and the Everyman Library. These are publishers that create beautiful books. And there are a few independent publisher who see book making as a labor of love. I wish there were more.

    As long as we shrink the budget for public education and lay off teachers and get rid of the arts in our schools and measure educational progress by tests, we are going to see a shrinkage in readership. And book buyers. And that will kill the physical book more than any eReader out there. So the way I see it, both as a reader and a writer, anything that gets people to reading and buying books. That is a good thing.

  48. Books will never die. They have certainly adapted, though, and will likely continue to do so. I don’t draw distinction between print and e-books, in the sense that both provide content that satisfy an emotional need in the reader. That said, the print book has the tactile advantage; it offers an irreplaceable dimension to the reading experience, through that tactility – and my own personal collection of them is sufficiently immense that I have to store a dismaying proportion of it in the shed. But there are uses for e-books too. I think they do different things for readers.

  49. Great read, I totally agree that books are not decorative. I mean I like organising them on my bookshelf nicely but I prefer to read them rather than just display them as if to show off my literary choices. Thank you for writing this.

  50. Pingback: Diamonds may be forever for Shirley Bassey… | c21stguinevere

  51. A great post and a very happy comment string. I am one of the hardcopy lovers and it’s good to see how many others there are. One comment, buying used books at Amazon and the local library book store have made it hard for me to pay full price anymore. I realize this is not helpful to the sale of new books, but I tend to be a tightwad.

  52. I love your comment about the contents being “ornaments for your mind.” Excellent! My wife and I have 4 large book cases, double-stacked with books. I love having my own library. Thanks for a great post!

  53. Wow…this is a great post and I will forward it to my friend who thinks that I am too backward because I don’t like reading e-books. Really I like the intimacy of reading a physical book, the feeling of touching it…oh makes me feel good. And looking at my book shelf I get this great astonishment and this remind me that I have been giving myself time to be me. I love reading. I get frustrated when I don’t read anything for a month. I will go mad. My friends find it easy to buy me gifts/presents because they know I will be above the moon when I get a book. Recently I have taught myself to appreciate other genres and I am enjoying the experience.

  54. Amen! Sometimes I feel like I’m the only 20-something year old still reading physical books, but I just wouldn’t feel right reading from a screen… I think I’d even miss the sore shoulders from carrying books around in my handbag every day! Hopefully printed books will still be around for a long time to come and we can all still enjoy our own little private home libraries!

  55. Pingback: Romancing the Bard | Life Begins at 30

  56. Just as television didn’t kill radio, ebooks surely will not kill paper books. They all have their niches in our lives, surely. I devour the contents of physical books, ebooks, and audiobooks, and love it all. As for reading off a screen, isn’t that what blog reading is all about? And it’s great.

  57. While I do not completely hate the idea of books as decorations (some of the designs of books and book cover art are fantastic afterall) I do care more about their contents than their pictures. The only thing that I can take as consolation is that these “designers” might rescue some books from used bookstores and charity thrift shops that might die a mouldy death otherwise.

  58. Interesting thoughts… a physical book is a more attractive thing than an electronic file on a kindle but it’s more convenient and the words are still the same. I think the sales of e-books will continue to increase at the expense of paper books but paper books won’t die out in the same way that vinyl records made a comeback.. There’ll always be people who prefer them.

  59. Reblogged this on ohyesjulesdid and commented:
    I agree with the author that books, real physical books, are far from dead. I have to admit that I do not find it as problematic as said author that books be used as pieces of art–because I see so many connections and inspirations in art and literature. I do agree that books should not merely be props though. Pretending to be someone or something you are not is dubious. And placing certain books on a coffee table at various times of the year is pretentious and reeks of snobbery. Books should describe their owner, but they should be loved and displayed in ways that promote that same love of learning in others–a stack by the bed, a wall of bookshelves, on the shelf of an end table, etc. Our literature is a window into our shared histories, into our souls.

  60. Nothing compares to the feeling of taking a warm and comforting cup of coffee and a good book in hand. It is in them that we mark pages with the glasses. Hugs!

  61. I enjoyed your post. I love reading books. I love reading both paper and electronic books. I really don’t care which one. They both have positives and negatives for me. Before I got an e-reader, I felt like I would miss turning the pages… holding the physical book in my hands. Really, I never missed either one. When a book sucks you in, it sucks you in regardless of the medium it is presented on. To use books as props is definitely wrong. I totally agree.

  62. Nicely written. I too believe that books shall never die. It is only in books – the flipping of pages, the contemplation over each line, that makes us what we are today. Digital books are useful for information, but never as valuable, because the sense of touch just isn’t engaged.

  63. This post was right on spot! Excellently written! I agree with you on all of your points and the main one is that I refuse to read a book “electronically.” I’d rather have a physical book in my hand instead of staring at a screen any day. You can’t get that amazingly unique smell of the pages from the Kindle and that is just not acceptable in my book. There is just something exquisite about holding the weight of a book in your hands and getting lost in the story being read. Books are something that should be treasured, not taken for granted.

  64. I agree with this completely. I may have a Kindle but I do love paper books as well. Right now, I’ll buy a book on Kindle first and if I really like it, I’ll buy it’s paper version.

  65. While I agree that books will never die, I recently got a Kindle Paperwhite, and it has been a godsend. I can read hard to find classics on it, without having to troll through bookstore after bookstore, and there are great deals on contemporary novels as well. Still, if I want to buy a book, I won’t automatically reach for my Kindle, I’ll go to the nearest bookstore.

  66. I love going in bookstores and being able to pick one and and flip through the pages, before deciding. Having an app on my phone just isn’t the same. Long live books πŸ˜€

  67. Thought provoking post. As a librarian and life-long reader, I pray that books never die (I don’t think they will), but I must also say that I find the convenience of being able to read one of hundreds of books that are waiting for me in my book bag (via Kindle) a good thing. Many times, I have read an eBook that I loved very much, prompting me to purchase the hard copy for my collection, so there is that. Also, aside from the perceived death knell of real books, many of my librarian brethren truly believe that the rise of the eBook is also bringing about the demise of the library-but that is another story. Great article, I really enjoyed it.

  68. books are gems for the soul…..they are meant to inspire, ignite, teach, entertain, elevate, provoke, move, and heal in one way or another

  69. Reblogged this on A'bert Originals Handmade Jewelry and commented:
    My greatest terror has become fulfilled!! My daughter-in-law told me her children love to read and they all read from electronic readers! My very own grandchildren have become traitors to the lives of paper books…boy will they be surprised what I will leave them when I die!

  70. Thanks for a spot on article! I so needed to find a kindred spirit today. My son recently requested old books from relatives and knowing he has always appreciated his heritage he was given several. Many of them from the 1930’s and ’40’s. However, when visiting I found the books on a rustic bookshelf in his dining room…some definitely used as a base for a decoration, some just stacked, looked inviting, but 2 or 3 of them had been bent inside out from the middle then tied to stay open with a rope! Gasp! I wondered why it disturbed me so much, but your article assured me I am not crazy after all, or at least not alone.

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