I moved about a mile away on May 31 and am loving the roommate-free life so far. Moving is a huge pain, though, and despite my efforts to get rid of as much as possible prior to moving, I still ended up realizing that I have way too much stuff. I do, thankfully, have more space for it in my new space and I’ll be working again to get rid of more of it, but still.
A lot of the stuff I have, though, is books. Here’s what my bookshelves look like AFTER I got rid of the ones I didn’t want:
As much as a pain it was to move six or seven full boxes of them, though, I’m glad I own all these books. I have no intention of being a person whose bookshelves aren’t full.
And I absolutely have no intention of being a person whose books are all contained in an e-reader. As a matter of fact, I think e-readers are the devil.
Why? Well, there are many reasons, but the biggest one is that they are putting bookstores out of business.
Let me repeat that: they are putting bookstores out of business. For book lovers, I don’t know how that’s not the end of the argument right there, but somehow it isn’t. It seems that after years of reading the printed word, book lovers have suddenly found it inconvenientthat books are, you know, objects. With mass. And weight. And apparently, the desires not to carry things under five pounds and for more room in their bags have seduced them towards these bookstore-destroying e-readers.
Back in the days when You’ve Got Mail portrayed big bookstore chains as the enemy, I never imagined that I’d be defending Barnes and Noble as fervently as I have been, but here I am lamenting that aside from college bookstores, there is now exactly one Barnes and Noble in the entire city of Boston. Borders is now long-gone, slain by the e-Reader phenomenon. The Boston area does, at least, have a good number of used and independent bookstores, but I miss having options for book superstores, where you could settle into a chair and read and where you KNEW they’d have the book you were looking for.
There are plenty of other reasons, of course. I don’t think the experience of reading should feel like looking at a computer, which I do all day long at work. You can’t lend eBooks to your friends. You can’t have them signed by your favorite authors at readings. If you have kids, your kids will have no idea what you’re reading if they see you on your Kindle or Nook and won’t ask about it or try to read it themselves. E-readers might spare you some embarrassment if you’re reading 50 Shades of Grey in public, but they also spare you the shared experience of someone else who’s read the book bonding with you. And you can’t hand your favorite eBooks down to your children and grandchildren.
There’s also the matter of Amazon being a bully towards publishers. Here’s what they’ve been doing to Hachette Books recently. If you have a Kindle, you’re supporting this—so for the love of God, at least get a Nook if you absolutely MUST have an e-reader.
I’ll admit that there are a few upsides to e-readers aside from the more-room-in-the-bag thing. eBooks are less expensive to produce, so they allow publishers to release books that wouldn’t see the light of day otherwise. I actually do have a Nook for PC on my laptop because I wanted to read this book by Lois Duncan, a sequel to Who Killed My Daughter?, which is only available in eBook format. eBooks also help authors because they don’t have to worry about losing money from used book sales.
But that’s it. I can’t warm up to the idea of e-readers because I just keep getting stuck on the bookstore thing. I do not want to live in a world without bookstores. Browsing a bookstore and flipping through pages of a book I haven’t read is one of my greatest pleasures in life. A couple of years ago, Ann Patchett (an author whom I’ve seen speak twice and who is as talented at speaking as she is at writing, which isn’t always the case with famous writers) appeared on The Colbert Report and spoke about how, since her hometown of Nashville no longer had a bookstore, she’d opened one herself. She thought the community needed somewhere to have conversations about books and have story time for kids and get recommendations from actual people. In a wonderful bit of wisdom that applies to so many things besides buying books, she said, “If you never, ever talk to people and you meet all of your needs on the Internet, you wake up one day and you’re the unabomber.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Look, I’m not saying you’re a bad person if you have an e-reader (really, I think more than half the people I know have one), but I am saying that you should think about the consequences of the choices you’re making. Because when bookstores are all gone and buying online is our only option and there’s nowhere to go and browse and we’ve all turned into little unabombers? Well, I hope you enjoy all that extra room in your bag.