A Reason Why Paper Books Will Survive

Every couple of weeks, there's another bunch of stories about how e-books are transforming the world, and paper books will soon survive only as collectible fetish objects. It occurred to me this morning that I share a house with a reason why paper books will be around for a while yet, at least in some markets. In fact, I share a house with the cutest reason why paper books will be around for a while yet:


That's SteelyKid with an alumni magazine, not a book, but you get the basic idea. And a lot of the time, she's much less gentle with her reading material:


Kate and I have both largely switched to electronic reading, to the point where I stopped in a Barnes and Noble on Friday primarily to get ideas for books to download when I got home (though I still balk at paying hardcover prices for an electronic file, as seems to be the case with a lot of non-fiction). It's going to be a good long while, though, before SteelyKid is allowed to play with either of our Readers, because we're not particularly close to having an electronic ready that can stand up to a toddler with a short attention span.

Paper books, on the other hand, can be thrown, walked on, banged on things, drawn on, crumpled up, have food spilled on them, and still remain more or less readable. Even when she's managed to rip pages out, it doesn't affect the entire book, just the one missing page. We don't have an e-reader yet that can stand up to the punishment that SteelyKid dishes out on a regular basis.

It's only a matter of time-- she's got some talking electronic toys that are, sadly, damn near indestructible-- but I don't think we'll be shutting down the paper mills any time soon.

More like this

There's been some recent discussion about what eBooks will mean for publishing (ScienceBlogling Chad Orzel has a good roundup). As it often is, my take on this is 'follow the money.' Maybe my reading habits are skewed*--or more accurately, my book acquisition habits are skewed--but about eighty…
In which we look at how the Brave New Publishing World makes it really hard to find something good to read. ------------ In a recent links dump, I included a link to this post about the current state of publishing, which is a follow-up to an earlier post about the current state of publishing.…
A recent paper from the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy came across my desktop yesterday called e-Reading and e-Responding: New Tools for the Next Generation of Readers. In it, Lotta C. Larson describes her observation of 10 fifth-grade students who were given access to an e-reader…
A lot of pixels have been spilled lamenting the death of Borders books, a rather large fraction of them being used to say stupid things. Particularly in the "they killed off independent bookstores so good riddance to them" vein-- it's great that you lived in a place that had good indie bookstores…

My husband collects hard-cover sci-fi and has a complete collection of Asimov's sci-fi. I think if the kids ever treated any of his books that way, they'd be put out in the garage for a week. :-) (Their books, on the other hand, are fair game.)

I do think that eventually e-books will become the norm (especially once they get textbooks on it en masse).

I do use e-books occasionally but for me reading is a much more personal, visceral experience when you have it paper-bound in your hand. Scribbling in the margins, pages crinkling as you flip back and forth, and the smell (the smell!)

These are things that I miss every time I try and use an e-book.

By UberMalark (not verified) on 01 Aug 2010 #permalink

I don't remember e-books I read as well as I do paper books. There's something about the individual heft, the curve of the page, the print, the slight irregularities, the position on a left or right page as I hit a significant sentence, that anchors a memory of the content and thought. So I still buy p-books for favourite authors.

If that's so for me now, how different would my memories of Peter Rabbit be if I'd read them in the same e-book as my first arithmetic exercises?

No doubt we'll soon start to see toddler-proof electronic first-books - with, alas, earworm jingles for audio - and perhaps the next generation will anchor their memories differently.

This is definitely something that I have been thinking about, as we have several e-picture books. I am hoping to find an old internet tablet that I can fringe with a rubber bumper. It won't protect the screen, but should at least work for shock absorption. Then Youngest (two) could read both his e-books and fool about with Tumble Books (which if your library doesn't subscribe to, it should) and the International Children's Digital Library.

UberMalark -

I would really love to see more textbooks as e-books. The ones that I have gotten as electronic versions are at most half off the price for new. In the case of web based, temporary access books they were as much as seventy percent less.

And of course it is also really nice to just select text for a search.