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Thursday, April 21, 2011


by Josh (bio)

It's a Book
It's a Book by Lane Smith
It makes me happy when children's books are smart and funny. It makes me even happier when they are topical and well written. (If I have to read another one of those Hot Wheels books again when on every page the cars are on a different continent, I am going to tear my remaining hair out.) It's a Book by Lane Smith is fantastic in that regard. Gorilla (or whatever he is) is reading a book, and his friend Jackass (which is kind of a funny name to have in a children's book) can't seem to get his head around it. He keeps asking questions like "How does it scroll down? Does it need a password? Does it tweet?" to which Gorilla simply replies "No. It's a book."

I read it to the kids last night and laughed (especially when the book ended with the pithy "It's a book, Jackass.") but it made me think about the books and their place in our world.

I am a great lover of books. My wife and I were both English majors, so we own plenty of books. Just last week we were measuring the home office to see if we could fit another bookshelf in there. We have bookshelves in our living room, in the kid's bedroom, in the upstairs hallway. The china hutch in the dining room holds our collection of cookbooks and food literature. The floor next to my nightstand is stacked with an ever growing and expanding collection of books I want to read. I meticulously catalogue it all on Goodreads. Our house is overflowing with books.

Kindle 3G Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 3G Works Globally, Graphite, 6" Display with New E Ink Pearl Technology
But I am also a great lover of technology. I got a Kindle a couple of years ago (not this new one, mind you. I covet this new one.) and have loved it. A lot of my book-loving friends pooh-poohed it when I got it and said things like "Oh, I would never want to read a book on a screen." or "I just love new books! I love the smell and the feel and everything." Some even asked me "Are you just not going to read actual books anymore?" I do still read a lot of actual books. Last year I read about seven books on the Kindle and about 26 actual paper books.

Right now, I can't see myself ever giving up paper books. But there are some things that I love about reading books on the Kindle. In fact, I prefer to read certain books on it. The first book I bought on my Kindle was Drood by Dan Simmons. It's a fantastic book but it is also about 975 pages long. I got it first from the library and it weighed about 14 lbs. I couldn't imagine carrying it around on business trips. It would need its own ticket. I also love the convenience of a Kindle book. Because I have a free Kindle app on my smart phone, I have a book with me wherever I go. If I am on a lunch break at work, or waiting for an appointment, I can pick up in my current novel of choice and read a few pages. When I get back home, my Kindle is already synced to the same page. It's magic.

So will books ever go away? Slate's Julia Turner posed this question in the great Culture Gabfest. Paraphrasing her, she pondered whether the day would come where all physical representations of cultural media would go away. Think about it - when is the last time you bought a DVD instead of getting it from Netflix or downloading it from iTunes? Or when was the last time you bought a CD? Do they still even sell CDs in stores? Are books the next icon to fall?

I can hear your arguments now. And I agree with you. Remember, I love books! But remember when mp3 players first started hitting the scene and audiophiles complained that the sound quality was poor and that a digital copy of a song could never have the same depth and soul as an actual recording? I am no audiophile, so I can't argue with that point. But I do think that the convenience and ease of carrying 1 million songs in my pocket outweighs any loss I might have in sound quality. So will the ability to carry every book I've ever read and ever want to read in my pocket at all times outweigh the need for that great smell or great feel of a new book? I'm not convinced yet. But I can feel the tide shifting.

Author's Note: Even though it sounds like it was, this post was in no way sponsored by the Kindle or by Amazon. However, if Amazon feels so inclined to send me a free new Kindle, I would gladly take it. I am a blogger, so I have no journalistic integrity and love handouts.

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