Some of you will remember the movie The Paper Chase, from which I unashamedly stole the inspiration for the title of this post.
This post was inspired by a broadcast on CBC Radio last Sunday (July 1st). At least, I think it was Sunday. I was at the cabin for the long weekend (Canada Day) and kinda lost track of what day it was. The show was the usual fare about how book sellers, publishers, & authors have to adapt or die because everything’s going digital and there’s no room or need for anything physical or analog. I tuned out because I was enjoying my digital semi-isolation (no network at the cabin). Plus, I was reading A Dance with Dragons on my tablet (yes, I see the irony). Anyways, this is my post, not yours, so I’m okay with any irony or hypocrisy contained herein.
Many years ago, before I first held my son in my arms, I bought him a book. I wrote a note to him on the inside of the front cover. The note simply expressed how much my wife and I loved him, even though we hadn’t yet met. With ereaders and tablets being so popular and inexpensive today, would we (parents in general) do that sort of thing? I’m not so certain.
One of the great joys I got out of being a parent was reading to my children. I could do that with e-books, but then I’d miss the laughs of having my kids try to turn the pages with their toes, chewing on the books, and seeing the wear and tear on the books as they transitioned from infant to toddler and still read/played with the books I’d read to them in the very early parts of their lives.
As my kids got older, they received books as gifts. Many of the books, given by friends & family, had notes written inside the front covers. My kids still have most of the books, and, being the sentimental souls they are, like to look at them and read those notes. They’ll also, probably, pass those books on to their kids and point out the notes that Gramma & Grampa or Uncle This or Aunty That wrote way back when it seemed that dinosaurs still roamed the earth.
Going to a bookstore with the kids is something that my wife & I have always enjoyed. There’s just something very satisfying about seeing your children sitting on the floor at Chapters, poring over what books they’ll buy (with Dad’s money, usually) and treasure for ages. That experience can’t be replicated by scrolling & clicking through an electronic bookstore.
Real books are better than ebooks because you can share them. I received The Art of Racing in the Rain as a Christmas gift. I really enjoyed it and knew my daughter would as well. Sharing the book with her was a simple matter of just passing to her when I was done. What’s the electronic equivalent of that?
There’s a 2nd hand bookstore that I frequent near my house. It’s a great place to buy inexpensive books and to dispose of books we don’t want any more. There’s an added bonus; when I drop off used books, I give back to the community. You see, the bookstore is run by the Sturgeon Hospital Auxiliary Volunteer Association (SHAVA). I donate books, they sell them, and profits go to SHAVA. Try that with electronic books.
When I fly I am instructed to turn off all my electronic gizmos and gadgets during taxi, take off, and landing. How the hell am I supposed to read? I know, I’ll read a paperback or hardcover book.
Don’t get me wrong; I love the convenience and weight savings of electronic content on my tablet. I really do. But I’m not willing to sacrifice some of the joys of real, hold-in-your-hand stuff that the electro-gods are trying to pry out of my fingers. Think about music – digital is great, but it doesn’t sound as good as putting vinyl on a turntable (Justin Bieber excepted because he sounds like crap regardless of format).
From a business perspective, elimination of paper is a laudable, if unrealistic, goal. Assuming all the various pieces are available, any business that still insists on clogging up processes with paper ought to be forced to listen to Justin Bieber until their ears bleed and/or their willies fall off (just like Justin’s).
With all the talk about portability and mobility I figured I’d just point out that just because you can go digital doesn’t mean you have to or that it’s the best way. Of course, not all of you are in the same situation as I am, nor do you approach life the same way. That’s cool; to each her own. But, to those of you out there who have never listened to a vinyl LP or held a real book in your hands, I feel bad for you, you don’t know what you’re missing.