Saturday, August 03, 2013

Thoughts from a Rare Book Dealer Who Hates Physical Books

Proving that it takes all kinds, here's an interesting (serious?) article in The Guardian in which a British rare book dealer confesses to the world that reading on the Kindle has "turned him off paper books."

Forced, because he inadvertently forgot his Kindle at home while traveling, to read an actual physical book on an airplane, Rick Gekoski seems to have suffered some sort of mental collapse.  Just listen to him describe the horrors he was forced to endure:
It has been a few years since I read an actual book on a plane, and I was astonished at how cumbersome, how intractably wrong, it felt in my hands. I found myself – which I have never done before and heartily disapprove of – folding the book in half so that only the page I was reading was visible. That gave me a cramp in my right hand, and the pages wouldn't stay still, quite, as I read. I found myself swaying slightly, as if at the Wailing Wall. Then I went back to the two-handed double-page-opened position – even describing it makes it seem like an obscure sort of manoeuvre, rather than a natural function – but I still couldn't settle down. The book was too fat. It was too heavy. It spread out too widely. It was as if I had taken an unruly small pet onto the plane and couldn't keep it under control.
Never again. I would even prefer to watch a tiny film on one of those seat telly thingies than read a book on a plane.

Surely there is a place to report this kind of physical abuse at the hands of sadistic publishers that still insist upon printing books.  If not, there damn well should be.

Mr. Gekoski admits to still buying some hardcover books, both those he wants to annotate and use for future reference and those he knows will be one-time reads.  But he sees the day when even those dwindling purchases are likely to disappear forever - and remember this man is a book dealer!  Let's hope he is the exception, and not the rule.

I own an e-book reader (Sony) and have for years.  I have every e-reader app known to man downloaded on both my iPad and iPad mini.  Some of the apps are even on my smart phone.  But I only read e-books when traveling or when a publisher insists on sending review copies out only in that format.  And, more importantly, I find the electronic reading experience to be hugely inferior to that of reading from a physical book.  I retain less, my mind wanders more, and I have to re-read whole paragraphs at a time after realizing that I haven't yet absorbed a single word on the page.

No offense intended to Mr. Gekoski, but I am hoping that this is more of a tongue-in-cheek piece than it appears to be on my first reading.  If not, I have to say that the joke is on him because it does make him look rather silly.

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