The sight of stacks and rows of books that adorns a library or bookstore makes visiting such places and browsing the books, touching and feeling them a timeless experience every book-lover will cherish, relish and would love to experience over and over again. It is like good sex, a comfortable massage or a sumptuous meal — something that you will cherish, relish and would love to experience over and over again. It doesn’t matter whether it is your home library or a professional one or a bookstore by the side of a crowded street; the joy and thrill one gets from seeing and feeling books is the same.
The pleasure of interaction with the printed books makes one wonder if replacing them with e-readers filled with e-books a wise choice. I have friends who claim not to have read a printed book in past ten years or more. They prefer to read from their Kindles, iPads, Nooks, and the host of other e-readers that are available. They rave about the paper like feel, how light they are, how many books they can hold, and so on. I have tried almost all of the above mentioned e-readers. I didn’t find them as fascinating as the hype or as elegant and useful as the claims. Yes, they are portable and can hold a large number of books; two features that will help in saving a lot of space.
For me a book-lined study with a comfortable recliner is much more preferable and enjoyable. I prefer the printed books to the e-readers that offer ‘paper like feel’ and contain thousands of e-books stored in their bowels.
“One of the many things that I love about bound books is their sheer physicality. Electronic books live out of sight and out of mind. But printed books have body, presence. Sure, sometimes they’ll elude you by hiding in improbable places: in a box full of old picture frames, say, or in the laundry basket, wrapped in a sweatshirt. But other times they’ll confront you and you’ll literally stumble over some tomes you haven’t thought about in weeks or years. I often seek electronic books, but they never come after me. They may make me feel, but I can’t feel them. They are all soul with no flesh, no texture, and no weight. They can get in your head but can’t whack you upside it.” (Will Schwalbe in The End of Your Life Book Club)
One cannot replace the joy of holding the book, feeling the smell of paper and ink, the crisp sound the paper makes while turning the pages, etc. But the e-book market-share will grow, as e-books are ideal for scholarly publications and technical books. Also they are easier to download and in many cases slightly cheaper than the print versions. Another factor is that many publishers have started offering only e-books for certain genres of books. Yet another factor that will force e-books on to the readers is the non availability of paperbacks, as many publishers now bring out only expensive hardcover versions and e-books.
But e-books will never completely replace printed books. E-books can only imitate the feel of real books but never can reproduce it and therein lies the secret of immortality of the printed books.