It seems that Amazon is trying to replicate, or at least find an equivalent for, something that book lovers obsess about in physical books. A new Kindle — a very pricey Kindle — is now available and designed to arouse the same feelings of adoration that physical books supposedly do.
“For all of their conveniences, e-readers have never been able to replicate what people love most about physical books. The smell of an old leather binding; the crisp deckle edge of a new hardback; the way a dog-eared paperback feels in your hand. The way they look on a shelf, or stuffed into your back pocket; the way they show people at a glance what you’re reading, so you can connect with a friend or stranger over a shared affinity—or show off your good taste.”
Is this actually true for most people? As someone who’s been reading physical books for about 75 years, I can honestly say that what I love most about books is the words. The smell, the look, the feel: those can be pleasant, but they’re way down in the list of what attracts me to a book or gives me pleasure. And if you want your books to show off your good taste, then they’re simply objects that serve to enhance your ego. It’s been pointed out that reading an ebook in public allows you to hide your “bad” taste — good — but also prevents you from showing off your “good” taste — bad.
I may be alone in this, but I fail to comprehend how the smell or feel of a physical book enhances the reading experience. The most desirable feature of a novel is that it allows you to escape the real world and immerse yourself in an imaginary one. Nonfiction books convey new knowledge. Neither of those require an awareness of the physicality of the container. I’d even insist that any book that leaves you aware of the container has failed in its task.
I appreciate the hell out of my Kindle, but it’s just a different container. It has advantages over physical books, and disadvantages. If you’re really a book lover you’ll choose the container that works best for the book, the time, and the place.