Have you ever seen a beautiful old e-book? Guess not. For me the only real books are the printed, bound books. Especially old ones. They really come to life in your hands when you are reading them. Despite my love for these real books I switched to reading on a digital device a few years ago. Sure, it has many advantages but I still miss reading real books. Don’t you?
Real books are beautiful objects. Especially old ones. I always loved browsing through stacks of them. Scanning the shelves somewhere in a small shop or a thrift store. Picking them up and feeling the weight. Reading the cover. Touching it with my hand and feeling the quality of the paper. Wondering about all that knowledge that is contained in the pages. All the stories that need to be read. The characters I have to meet and the craftsmanship of the writer and the publisher. I can almost feel the enjoyment the readers before me must have had.
Real books make me want to read
Seeing beautiful old books always makes me curious. They make me want to read. And when I start reading them they seem to come to life in my hands. I bond with them for a few days or weeks (or months) and they share their stories with me. The downside is that, once finished, they always end up on the shelf or somewhere in the attic. I rarely read them twice. To me they just become useless, lifeless objects again.
Recognize this? Whenever I visit someone’s house, one of the first things I do is try to find the bookcase. Whenever I find it I quickly scan the titles and writers of the books. That tells me a lot about the owner and it is always a great topic of conversation. Same thing when you see someone reading a real book on the train or in the subway. You can usually see the cover and know what they are reading.
I switched to e-books
Despite my love for these real books I switched to reading on a digital device a few years ago. First on an Kobo e-reader and more recently I started using my iPad Pro for reading books. For practical reasons. There is an enormous amount of e-books available and I don’t even have to leave the house to get them. But most important: when I finish a book, it doesn’t take up any space in my house. It is just a set of invisible bits and bytes I can easily ignore.
But somehow I miss something. I miss holding a real book in my hands. I miss that moment when I read the last page and close it for the last time. Whenever I finished a book I always used to flip it over a few times. Reading the cover again. Reminiscing about it. Saying goodbye and thanking it.
Reading e-books is a very different experience. I love the fact that I have an enormous amount of books on a small device. Right at my fingertips. But somehow it feels different. It is just information on a screen. The book doesn’t come to life in my hands and I have trouble bonding with it. And when I read the final page I just click it away and it is gone. No reminiscing. No goodbyes!
The thing I hate the most about reading digital books is the zapping. When I am on my e-reader, browsing through the books I always scan through them quickly. Whenever I see or read something I don’t like I just skip to the next one. The books are not real objects, just bits and bytes you can click away and ignore.
The social experience is gone
The social experience of reading real, printed books is also gone. Nobody knows what you are reading when you are reading on your e-reader. And when I visit someone’s house I don’t grab their device to check out the books they are reading.
And have you ever seen a beautiful old e-book? The writing can be ancient but you will probably read it on a shiny, modern device. Quite a different experience. It has no soul and the magic is gone. Maybe it is time somebody makes a truly beautiful e-reader?