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A sentimental nod to print


The print edition of Slovenly Peter my grandmother read to my siblings and me that still bears the crayon imprint of my little brother - along side its replacement?

Call me a sentimental slob, but I woke up this morning feeling sorta mournful. My Kindle arrived via UPS yesterday afternoon and I spent some time playing/learning/reading the device last evening. I am planning to take it and NO print books to ALA and NECC. The acid test.

It is eminently, uh, pragmatic.

I've been an advocate for silicon replacing cellulose since 1995. E-books hold tremendous potential for education - helping (and de-stigmatizing) struggling readers, reducing backpack weight, and even lowering textbook costs. Yet now that this practical device is actually here, I have to admit there are some important things I will miss about paper books:

  • How will you start a conversation with the person next to you on an airplane if you don't have the safe opening of "How's that book you're reading?"
  • How will you learn about the people who have invited you over if you can't peruse their bookshelves? (A LibraryThing account or Facebook book list just aren't the same.)
  • How will you impart memories of love and excitement about books in toddlers who are learning to associate reading with physical closeness, bright pictures and personal attention?
  • How likely are children to collect "e-books" that, like in my brother's case above, they make their own?

OK, I am sure when the horseless carriage replaced the horsed carriage, many shed a tear or two over the sweet smell of hay and manure. But the Kindle really does feel like the end of print books - objects that have been near and dear to my heart since I was read the horrible Slovenly Peter on my grandmother's lap.

Is this just sentimentality or will there be real loss as reading moves from cellulose to silicon?

Note to Amazon: Make the click wheel click quieter. It drives my wife nuts! 

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Reader Comments (17)

But can it play my Slovenly lp's?

June 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTom Hoffman

Hi Tom,

I believe I would need to purchase the CD and convert the songs to mp3. It supposed to play them, but I've not attempted this yet. Since I still don't have an iPod or mp3 player, I expect it won't be high on my to-do list.

All the best,


June 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

That was, by the way, a joke ;-) Although I do own the complete Slovenly discography on vinyl.

June 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTom Hoffman

Hi Tom,

Well, I still think of the Beatles as a contemporary music group, so I am well out of the music scene. Good to see old Slovenly is still having a cultural impact!


June 24, 2008 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

The other question I have is, how do you lend them? or share them? One thing I love about MPOW is that there are a bunch of mystery buffs and we trade books. Can't do that with a Kindle.

June 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLazygal

Hi Lazy,

Trade books? Hey, I read them and then give them to my brother as a gift!

My understanding is that the cost of books should eventually fall to the point that everyone can afford his/her own copy. At, say, $2-3 each. I believe that will happen if we look at how music downloads have gone at $.99 each.

My question is what kind of arrangement libraries can make with publishers. Right of first sale is murky for digital formats. Hmmmmmm, ideas?


June 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I think that sentimentality is stronger than you know. I think you're right, e-readers will be fine for the pragmatic reading and wonderful for students with the whole textbook issue, but we'll still want to by physical picture books/art books and even novels for the foreseeable future. I can't imagine an author signing without actual books for crying out loud.

June 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterteacherninja

Coincidentally I picked up The Little Engine that Could, today, that charming book about the toy train struggling up the mountain with the children's toys chanting "I think I can, I think I can..." We bought it over twenty years ago for our daughters. What a treat to leaf through the book and possibly read to grandchildren some day. Sentimental value will not be one of Kindle's strong points.

June 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Cornies

We have a tradition in our family - I buy and read a book first, then pass it to my brother, who passes it to his wife when he's done, who then passes it to either their daughter or her sister. From there they go to a charity.

I can't imagine not being able to drive over to their house to deliver my typical bag full of books. It would just be wrong! If I thought I was buying a book just for me, I might not make all the purchases I do. Right now, I look at the price, and then divide it by 4 because I know the book will be read by at least four people! How could that happen with a Kindle?

June 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJanice Robertson

@ Jim,

Hadn't thought of author signings. And what about all those collectable "first editions?"

The pull of sentiment might be stronger than many of us suspect.


@ Paul,

My family has been looking for an old favorite _Dr Goat_ for many years. A book I'd share with my grandsons if I had a copy too. I know what you're saying.


A Janice,

I think the theory is that the cost of an e-book will be sufficiently low that each person can own his/her own copy. So in your case, that $20 book would need to cost $5. That's the theory and seems to be the case with digital music with songs selling for $.99.

As I stated in my entry, this is a concern I have as well. I have to be careful what I order for the Kindle or my wife's nose might get out of joint!


June 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Talk about sentimental...what about the smell of books? One of my favorite memories from childhood was going to the library and having the smell of books hit me or having my parents and grandmother read me old stories. It will be hard to smell a Kindle and not receive some funny looks from others. But I do think the convenience of not lugging around heavy textbooks would be well worth it. I suppose it's a matter of purpose...if you want things easy the Kindle would be favored, but if it's to relax and savor you can't be the real thing.

June 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGKing

@ GKing,

Perhaps there is a market for eau d' book that can be sprayed on e-books. I always wanted to find a spray for photocopies that would make them smell like ditto machines.

All the best,


June 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

No Harold and the Purple Crayon??? WAAAAA....
The joy upon spying an old familiar, the ragged edges of deckled paper, the snap upon opening a new hardback, the scintillating aroma of new paper, the intrigue of illustration, the seduction of a catchy title....sorry....must have! Books forever!! Can't put bookshelf makers out of business, or meself....being a new Teacher-Librarian and all.

June 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJJ Avinger-Jacques

Are there plans for Kindle art books?

Newspapers are moribund, that writing has been on the wall for some time. Some books may be better if published electronically.

The balance will make itself evident. I think that the effects of time and the value of physical beauty will moderate the extremes.

June 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJTreistman

@ JJ,

I suspect that e-books won't put you out of business, but they will change your business.

Thanks for the comment from another sentimentalist,


@ JTreistman,

Yup. I doubt we will see the end of print books. People do still ride horses after all.

All the best,


June 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I love me Kindle - I've been traveling to this summer and it's delightful to walk on a plane carrying only my laptop and Kindle. No more overweight baggage charges because of packing to many books. No more wandering desperatly in the airport bookstore looking for something to read because the plane's late and I've my book allotment.
Will it totally replace the paper book? No, I don't think it will - esp. when it comes to reading with children. The Kindle is solitary, reading to a child is social..

June 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGuusje

Hi Guusje,

Your are SO cutting edge. Very cool.

I am still getting used to mine. I don't like the page turn pause and the positions of the buttons which make it hard to hold without turning a page.

Other than that - very cool!


June 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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