Ain’t nobody better call us a fuddy-duddy. But we can’t quite cotton to the idea of eBooks, even the name seems self-contradictory. So we were not surprised when two (count ‘em!) petitioners contacted us here in our New England offices to request that the newfangled gizmos be added to our growing roster. No problem. (Especially no problem as each of the petitioners is an international author, he from Hamburg, she from Milan. Were we impressed! Hate knows no boundaries, it seems, something that came as no surprise to us.)
From Hamburg: “I love books. And part of that love is physical. I love the feel of a book in my hands.” And reading about the “inevitable” invasion of eBooks around the globe? “I already miss the tactile qualities of books,” he tells us. “The weight in the hand, the cover design, the scent of glue and paper. We are losing a tactile experience.
“I feel like an ancient scribe, many centuries ago, who has only ever known parchment scrolls and who is being shown one of these newfangled 'book' things for the first time. He sits there with this block of bound paper in front of him, not knowing even how to open it.
"A novice priest impatiently shows how one proceeds, page-by-page, without the tedious rewinding involved with scrolls. And the older priest, knowing he is defeated, fondles a scroll and says, 'But it's just not the same, is it?' "
From Milan, our second petitioner notes, “The book in itself, as object, cannot be substituted in my mind by an e-version, albeit a portable one. I still like pages, fonts, colophons, covers, blurbs, forewords and post scripta, lists of characters and glossaries -- even maps and illustrations where needed. The tactile quality of paper has nothing to do with virtuality, and everything to do with virtù (‘good quality’ in Italian).”
Stone tablets to papyrus, parchment to paper, now this. Our Milanese scribe continues, “We were already asked in our lifetime to go from fountain pen to ballpoint to felt-tip to keyboards of all kinds, and without taking anything away from the wonders of the Web, which include so many scholarly and cultivated sites in addition to online banality and trash, I'll go as far as saying that I even like old-fashioned encyclopaedias, dictionaries and thesauruses. Call me a fuddy-duddy, I can take it.”
The demise of small bookshops. The fact that Kindles hate sand and water, not to mention magnets, hot coffee, iced tea and a whole lot of other things. And can you really in good conscience read an eBook on Shabbat? The list of infractions goes on and on. Here’s one of our favorites:
Have you ever seen a book someone was reading on the subway…and then made a satisfyingly self-righteous snap judgment about that person? With a growing number of people turning to Kindles, iPads and other electronic readers, it’s not always possible to see what others are reading. (As recently reported in the New York Times, “Some digital publishers suspect that one of the reasons romance and erotica titles are so popular in electronic editions is because e-readers are discreet.”) Instead, we form our opinion based on the very fact that the person has chosen the eBook format. So there.
After all, you can’t tell a book by its cover if it doesn’t have one.
Officially registered at Hate for Hire, April 5, 2010.