Terry Teachout has some interesting musings on the future form of books. He quotes a email from a reader who loves to read on his PDA but still loves his actual physical books too. This prompts TT to muse:
Iâ€™ve never collected books qua books, precisely because I feared acquiring an expensive addiction, but I do love a handsome volume, and Iâ€™ve always been fussy about the design of my own books . . . At the same time, Iâ€™m not at all sure that I wouldnâ€™t be perfectly content to ditch the text-only books in my library and replace them with e-books. Naturally weâ€™re not talking about art books, and I imagine Iâ€™d also want to hang on to my uniform edition of Henry Jamesâ€¦but maybe not. As I said in the posting to which my reader is referring, Iâ€™m interested in essences, not their embodiments, and even though Iâ€™m a hopeless typeface junkie, thereâ€™s never been any doubt in my mind that itâ€™s the words that matter . . . Perhaps the bottom line is that Iâ€™m open, at least in theory, to the possibility of abandoning the book-as-art-object, just as Iâ€™ve already taken the first step toward abandoning the album-as-art-object.
I can’t say that I am on the same wavelength as Terry. Although I do read a lot online, I prefer reading paper. I do in fact print out longish articles and even blog posts. I also often need to print out my own prose in order to edit it.
But when it comes to books there is no contest. The physical characteristics are a crucial part of buying books. I love the way books are packaged and am often attracted to books simply by their cover. I could not imagine turning in my library for an electronic version or reading books via an electronic reader. The pleasure of reading a book would be diminished without the physical and visual component. Perhaps this explains my book buying problem! I would love to know what other readers think. Could you exchange your library for a CD and a electronic reader?