Plastic or Paper?

Y'all. I sniff pages like hedge-fund managers sniff money. You've seen me. I'm that person tucked away in Borders' (teeny little freaking) horror section, casting a furtive sniff over newly-opened pages. Inhaling that bookey smell over in the lit fic. Trailing my fingers across the dust-jackets fanned out on the New Release tables. Deftly applying the first thumb prints to the shiny shiny covers. Sighing at the chock a book makes when it slides home on the shelf.

You know, holding the books. Feeling their heft. 
Touching a tangible literary product.

And I may not be able to stop. Hi, my name's Zoe, and I can't stop touching the booksies. (Hi, Zoe.)

Which is a problem in this looming age of Kindles, Nooks and iPads. Not wanting to be a literary Luddite forever, I marched right up to an ereader in that self-same Borders and played with it. Oohed. Huh-ed. Flicked digital pages. Pursed my lips and raised my eyebrows in that enh-okay-so-it's-not-so-bad thing I do.

And promptly left the device where it was, called back into the stacks by those smells. Those sounds. All that, yanno, weight. Which makes me wonder at the product-ness of books today. There's something about a stack of my printed pages that make me feel all gooey and productive. And as that stack grows, my sense of satisfaction grows. But when there are no pages to watch--? Will I feel the same way? Will it be as cool to see my work all backlit and digital on an iPad as it will be to hold the thing in my hands?

The discussion went back and forth in my head, kind of like this:

And I'm still not sure, dammit. So what about you? Which would give you more satisfaction in terms of seeing your finished product? Or would it come in equal measure from a Nook as from, yanno, a physical book?


Alesa Warcan | May 11, 2010 at 1:31 PM

Well, I don't write professionally, but if I did, I'd get a bigger blast from holding a book than from adding a file to my huge collection of ebooks.

That said, while I prefer paper, the convenience over the last ten years of reading on my PDA simply outweighed that preference. Except for reference books of course. Like cook books for instance.

Palindrome | May 11, 2010 at 1:33 PM

I prefer the physicality of an actual book. I'm a tactile person and I'm a notorious book smeller. I have assaulted many pages with my grubby hands and stubby nose. If I traveled a lot I would probably use a reader but only when traveling.

And I would buy something like the iPad so I could use it for other things.

The Alliterative Allomorph | May 11, 2010 at 1:44 PM

Oh I adore books, and I'm addicted to the smell of paper too! I think I'll just curl up in a corner and sob if books become obsolete. I so hope they don't. I can't bring myself to reaf from an electronic gadget. So not a good look snuggled up in bed. Yeah, I know, no one can see me, but I can see me, and it just won't look right holding onto a gadget!

Tamara Narayan | May 11, 2010 at 1:55 PM

I'm not a gadget person. I still don't know how to check my messages on my cell. Uh, where is my cell? Hmmm. Anyway, we must keep books, because whenever you fly, you can't use electronic devices during take-off or landing. What are we supposed to do with that time? Look at the airline's magazine? Talk to our neighbor? Please.

Alesa Warcan | May 11, 2010 at 2:04 PM

@Tamara: I like leaving origami monsters tucked into the pages of the "inflight magazine".
Drawing and writing notes for strangers is good too.
Chances are, most the funny notes, drawings, and poems that I've left have been thrown out with the magazines, never to read or seen, but maybe, just maybe, one of those reached somebody, and maybe that person was receptive and laughed or smiled.

Liza | May 11, 2010 at 2:14 PM

Oh, I so want to feel the weight of the book. But, I don't think we're going to have a choice much longer. So, I make myself remember that the first piece (of so very few) that I had published, appeared online only. And you know, it felt pretty darn good too!

~Nicole Ducleroir~ | May 11, 2010 at 2:22 PM

I'm with you and all your commenters! I've dreamed of pulling my book off the shelf at Barnes and Noble. I want to hold it, let my fingers leaf through its pages, draw its ink's perfume into my lungs. Holding an iPad and having my story appear on its screen just doesn't have the same appeal. Let's all get writing and publish before technology robs of us our true dreams!!

Thanks for following my blog. So glad to find yours! Looking forward to reading more!

Lola Sharp | May 11, 2010 at 4:09 PM

Tangible books. Always.

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) | May 11, 2010 at 4:40 PM

I need to hold the book in my little palms. Love the feel, smell, the everything of books.

Zoe C. Courtman | May 11, 2010 at 4:52 PM

Thanks everyone for your comments! You make me feel like I have friends :D

Alesa - I agree. There's DEFinitely something about portability, no? When I travel, my bag's always so freakin' HEAVY from all the books I stuff in there. Sigh. And I LOVE the drive-by-origami thing!! You're awesome :D

I'm with you on the iPad, Palindrome. Like you said, for other things (cuz it's so freakin' COOL!)

Hahaha, Jessica! Man, I have to bed down with a book, too. lol!

Good point, Tamara! I didn't think about the ban on electronics during take-off, etc. And that's the time when I'm most relieved to dive into my book! (And forget talking to my neighbor. I *hate* it when my seatmate won't let me get back to my book!!!)

Ooh, Liza, I know, right?? I hope the printed booksies don't go the way of the samurai.

Hi, Nicole and welcome!! You and I share that same dream - I want to march up to the stacks and see the SPINE of my book! Not just download it :D

Hey, Lola. Thanks for dropping in :) I TOTally agree. Sigh.

Hi, Lindsay! I need to hold the book too, man. Especially if it's mine!!!

Carolyn V. | May 11, 2010 at 5:14 PM

I need to hold the real book and turn its pages. Plus if I don't like it, I can throw it across the room without damaging it (much).

Lydia Kang | May 11, 2010 at 6:53 PM

Dude. Paper all the way.

James Garcia Jr | May 11, 2010 at 8:22 PM

Hi, Zoe. My favorite thing in all the world was to bring a brand new record album home, tear open the wrap and smell that brand new smell. Their was nothing like it, and thanks to CD's, I have not had that smell in two decades!
I imagine that an artist held their debut cd in their hands and felt cheated somehow...because, though it was awesome, it was simply not quite the same. I bet artists don't feel that anymore.
My novel is currently an e-book. Sometime this summer/fall it will be in paperback. I imagine that you will not be able to pry that thing out of my hands for quite some time!! However, after a while, we'll get used to it. In time.
Take it easy...

Jaydee Morgan | May 11, 2010 at 9:10 PM

I definitely dream of holding a book I wrote in my hands - and yes, a real book, not something digital.

I'm thinking of investing in a kindle for the ease of reading on vacation, but I'll always prefer the real deal. Give me an old fashioned book any day!

Deb Salisbury | May 11, 2010 at 11:50 PM

Real books! Real books! Real books!

eBooks strike me as rather creepy. Amazon can wipe them away, and Google's books will be "in the cloud", so they can disappear, too. Nothing short of a fire (or hereabouts, a tornado) can take away a *real* book.

Kristopher and Crew | May 12, 2010 at 12:31 AM

Paper books 1000%. When we moved to Maine, I had to leave my library in Idaho, so I bought a nook. I dig it, but meh. I've bought a pile of books from the thrift store. I love the experience of reading more with a REAL book.

Same goes for the day that something I've written is published. Heck, I've loaded my WIP on my nook already and read it that way. I have to admit, it does give me a bit of a thrill to see "The Whispering Ferns" with my name next to it in my library of my nook, but it's not the same at all.

It is pretty useful for reading your WIP and forcing yourself to just read it, not make revisions and notes.

Indigo | May 12, 2010 at 4:59 PM

I can't imagine the day I won't be able to hold an actual book in my hands. I haven't even glanced at an E-Reader to check it out. I like to experience things with all my senses, touch, smell, vision...sigh E-Readers just seem so sterile.

Loved the cat video. Absolutely hilarious. (Hugs)Indigo

Blythe | May 14, 2010 at 10:03 AM

This isn't either/or--this is both, please! Writers and readers (who are often the same animals) need to demand both. I wanted to know my book would be a physical artifact, I wanted to know that it would be available in libraries, and I wanted it to appear as an e-book, too. those things will happen.

I think some publishers are still trying to figure out what is going on--but they are bound to realize that there is a market for all sorts of media. The advent of the audio book didn't make pages obsolete, neither will the e-book.

(P.S. The reading experience on the iPad is awesome. I think a new golden age of illustration is going to happen, because...WOW!)

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