It's the reason people ask me how I can own an e-reader. Where's the romance? Where's the love of the book? they ask. You are murdering books and the publishing industry as we know it.
I've actually been told that. Ouch.
I think if you took one look at my "living room" (which has been transformed into our "library") anyone could tell I love me some tree-books. Although most of them were bought before I had a Nook (and a way to e-read), many have been bought after.
But standing in the store using all my will-power not to pick up yet another to add to my collection, I realized there is a difference between loving books, and loving reading.
I love them both.
I love the books - holding them and flipping through them and seeing the colors of the cover and being able to read the front and the back at practically the same time. The physical book is part of the enjoyment of reading.
But it is not everything.
Most of the enjoyment of reading itself comes from the story - one which can be read between covers, or on an electronic device, which, I admit, is also attractive to me. I love the smoothness of the plastic, the way the buttons click just so, the way the words change magically in front of my face as I "turn" pages. The touch screen I am addicted to.
The fact that I can read on an electronic device actually helps me keep engaged in the book, ironically. When reading with a tree-book, I find myself breaking away every now and then, checking my phone, my computer. I am torn between my two addictions.
But when I read on an e-reader, I feed them both at the same time. Subconsciously, my fingers are soothed by the clicking through the pages, and I don't feel the need to constantly check my emails and social media. I am more free to get lost in the story. And as strange as this sounds, I'm not alone. In the book, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distractions, the author Alan Jacobs says the same thing.
And when people like to point out that e-readers are going to be the death of books, I like to point to the iPod. Did that kill music? Indeed not! It's true that there are less physical music stores out there. The album is rare, tapes almost non-existant, and CDs probably dwindling. But music continues to thrive, more now than ever. By making music more portable, more immediately accessible, less expensive, consumers tend to buy and listen to more. More artists have the ability to get their voice out there to be heard.
The digitization of books is similar. E-readers allow e-books, and e-books allow more authors to have their shot at publication, allow more competition, which eventually I believe will lead to better quality. The people I know who use their electronic readers primarily, buy more books. They read more. They read far more than they used to read tree-books. They spend far more money on books than they did before.
Maybe people miss music stores, but I haven't heard many people moaning over it lately. People like being able to listen to entire albums online before buying, buying only the songs they love, downloading it immediately when they hear a song.
I don't know that physical book stores will go away in the same manner, but I think if they do, the transition will be long, and by then we'll be weaned enough that we don't miss them as much. We aren't there now, for sure. My own drooling in the grocery store aisle is testament to that. But I also can see a future where there are more books being published, more access to them, and less expense (to say nothing of less space required to keep them in my house!).
Change is rarely easy. Some of us will go kicking and screaming. And others... like a frog in boiling water we'll someday look around and say, "Wait a minute? When did this happen?" Luckily, we're not frogs, and we'll survive whatever comes just fine.