Monthly Archives: January 2012

Paper vs. Bytes

Part artist, part gossip, part therapist – the hairdresser.  I’m sitting in her chair talking about . . . e-books.  She’s a veracious reader and I’m a librarian – what else are we going to talk about?

I do not have an e-reader and, at the moment, am not particularly interested in getting one.  On the other hand, I don’t have a strong reason to avoid them.  And as my hairdresser notes, she’s reading a 1000 page novel at the moment and doesn’t have to carry that weight around as she walks to work.  There are other valid reasons for owning an e-book, too, but that’s another discussion.

However, we both agree there is something about holding the book and gratification to see how far you’ve gotten.  Not to mention that you know exactly how many pages the characters have to figure everything out – a natural point of suspense that the e-reader can’t provide you with.

There’s another reason, the page itself – or rather the paper.  I recently devoured two books I thoroughly enjoyed Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin and Laviathan by Scott Westerfeld.  In both cases I found myself – quiet subconsciously – stroking the page as I held it in anticipation of turning.  Crisp, nearly pure white, weighty, smooth with clean cut edges.  I simply enjoyed holding the paper.

Juniper Berry  was the very opposite.  Rough, nearly yellow paper with the most jagged edges.  Yuck.

There is a physical experience with the paper that, or better or worse, is at the core of the book.  Smooth though the e-reader’s case may be, it will never be warmed beneath my fingertips as I take a sigh of pleasure at the turning of the page.

As I catch up on the year-end lists of “Best of” books I’ve noticed something.  The title and author are always listed, often the publisher, and sometimes the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) unique to each edition, and then occasionally the page count.  Never the byte size or download time.  In other words, when we “measure” a book we still do it in paper.  It makes me believe that the death of the printed word is still quite a ways off.


And the Award goes to . . .

Award season has begun!!  And it’s a guilty pleasure to waste my time watching the red carpet and cheering for my favorite films to win.  This year I’m rooting for The Artist, although, truth be told I didn’t see many movies in the theater.

Usually I try to jot down all the movies, TV series, or min-series that I missed during the year with the promise to myself that I will retrieve them from the library.  I lose the list every year; sometimes it does make it to my work desk but then becomes a causality to more important tasks.  This year will be different.

This year our new online catalog allows me to sit here with my laptop and place the titles on hold right away.  Of course if I do that they are all likely to arrive at the same time, and I would need to take a week’s vacation simply to watch them all.  (Actually, that’s not a bad idea.)  Better yet, the catalog has a “For Later” shelf.

I love this feature.  The “For Later Shelf” lets me grab as many items as I like from the catalog and it will remember for me that I want to read, watch, and listen.  Each time I log in the system lets me know which of these items are available right away.  It assures that every time I go to the shelves I will come away with something I’ve been looking forward to seeing.