E-Readers vs "Real" Books
I don’t know how you feel about books, but to me, the prospect of having nothing to read is right up there with being deprived of oxygen. So whenever I move, I immediately make a beeline for the public library.
Sadly, Seville’s public library turned out to have a paltry supply of books, most of which looked like outcasts from private collections: dog-eared mysteries, popular novels several generations out of date, and obscure nonfiction titles that were probably written by the former owner’s great-uncle. There were two shelves of English-language volumes, mostly by Agatha Christie. I love Agatha Christie, but she’s not an ideal candidate for rereading; knowing who did it at the outset kind of takes the challenge out of the puzzle.
I managed to scrounge up a few titles to check out from time to time, but the choices only grew more disappointing. Then one day I returned a book a week late and was reaching for my wallet to pay the fine when the librarian explained, more in sorrow than in anger, that the penalty for such a transgression was having my library card suspended for three weeks. I was shocked and mortified. To me, being banned from a library was like hearing the tribe had voted to abandon me on the hillside for the wolves. I slunk away, feeling like an outcast and a criminal, and never returned.
It was about this time that a few forward-thinking friends started buying Kindles and Nooks, but I hated the idea of electronic books. I love the feel of paper, the crinkle of turning pages, the smell of the ink and, in my own books, the coffee stains, pressed flowers and other reminders that this book and I share a past.
That attitude lasted about 15 minutes after Rich bought me a Kindle. I realized that I was just like the folks back in 1455 who said, “Printed Bibles? To me, it’s just not the word of God if it isn’t hand lettered by monks on sheep vellum with gold curlicues and little illustrated scenes tucked into the capital letters.” It’s the content that counts. As long as it’s delivered in readable form, the curlicues and sheep vellum really aren’t vital to the process.
As my book Dancing in the Fountain gets launched over the next few weeks, I’ll be interested to see how many people buy “real” books and how many opt for the e-reader edition. I already know that I’m giving one of the first printed copies as a gift to my library of origin in Menlo Park, California, where I checked out books from the age of 8 to 18. It’s a tiny token of my appreciation for the countless hours of pleasure and inspiration I found there. Thanks, Menlo Park Library!
7/24/2012 08:35:10 am
We are among those who cling to the feel of paper in the hands - be it my morning paper over coffee or a good read over a glass of wine - I fear that I will one day be forced to go the way of the world but for now those stacks of magnificent books fill our home and warm our souls.
7/24/2012 04:21:16 pm
Jackie, I couldn't agree more - when I have enough books on hand! When I get close to running out, I'm profoundly grateful for my Kindle. I feel very lucky to have grown up with "real" books and all their many pleasures, and equally lucky that I have instant access to e-books when needed.
7/25/2012 07:36:19 am
Very soon! The formatting gremlins are hard at work translating the print version in Kindle-speak, plus every other e-reader version known to modern technology. I'm guessing a week or two. Watch the website home page or sign up for my mailing list to receive the official announcement.
Susan in Salem OR
7/29/2012 03:15:09 pm
Hi Karen. I saw your link on Victoria Twead's web site. Upon arriving at enjoylivingabroad.com, I saw your new book and rushed right over to Amazon to order a Kindle copy. Alas, no Kindle version.
7/29/2012 05:26:18 pm
8/6/2012 02:02:18 pm
As an author of my own living abroad book, I know this is an exciting launch for you. Congratulations! Love the painterly cover, too. I read both paper and Kindle books. It's hard to say which I love more. I treasure the texture of a book, and the fact others can see what I'm reading (and I can see their titles, too). But for travel, taking 3 or 4 books is much more feasible on a Kindle.
8/7/2012 07:04:13 pm
8/26/2012 12:55:41 am
As I am currently in the midst of my own passionate affair with France, I will definitely follow up on Karen A Chase's book about Paris. Personally, I prefer the look and feel of real books, but if they are in short supply for whatever reason, I wouldn't discount an e-reader. The reading is more important than how it's delivered.
8/7/2012 07:15:17 pm
6/18/2015 11:57:40 am
UPDATE: It's been nearly 3 years since Dancing in the Fountain was published, and I can tell you I've sold five times as many Kindle editions as paperbacks. My new book, Adventures of a Railway Nomad, is selling almost entirely on Kindle – which says something about the shift in how people are reading these days!
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TO I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain.
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