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.


2 responses to “Paper vs. Bytes

  1. Let’s hope your right. I don’t own and e-reader, and I have no plans to get one. I like books. Real books with real pages. I like to flip back and forth between scenes and chapters, and sometimes I like to revisit particularly “golden lines”.

  2. I could use a cheap therapist. What’s your hair cutter’s contact info?

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