Digital ‘Books’ just aren’t the same


“There is much more emotional attachment to the paper book than there is to the CD or the DVD…. It is not logical, it’s visceral.”
—Mike Shatzkin, The Idea Logical Company

A few years back when I worked in the computer industry, I attended a trade show where the CEO of the presenting hardware company gave a speech on all the great things to come in technology.

In particular, he became very excited talking about a digital screen that would display a child­ren’s book. He explained how it would work and, after a dramatic pause, said, “Just think…if your baby is laying in his crib, you could set up the screen and read him a bedtime story from the other room!”

I remember mostly silence after that and a few questioning glances between attendees. Seriously? Haven’t there been some studies done on children and physical contact? I think most experts agree it’s desirable.

Fast-forwarding a few years to today, I see he was probably talking about something similar to the Kindle. As Amazon defines it, a “Reading Device.” A digital book machine. Will I ever come around to appreciate this invention? Can’t say that I will. It just seems wrong.

We can’t forget how important our senses are to development and feelings and all those other good things. I will never lose the image of my oldest daughter at around 18 months of age, sitting in our recliner, holding “Go Dog Go” upside down, babbling as she “read” that book, touching the paper, turning the dog-eared pages, flipping back and forth to look at the pictures again…and again…and again.

A digital box just can’t deliver that.

I know, I know, a lot of people like the idea that they can carry around hundreds of books instead of just one at a time. Are they going to read hundreds of books at one time? It may end up being a cost-savings to the reader, but what about the authors, publishers, proof-readers and editors?

According to redroom.com, an online writer’s site, the cut the distributor (Amazon) gets for a Kindle edition is about 70 percent. Not much left for the talent that gets the book written and produced.

Bottom line, you can’t dog-ear a digital “page.” Doesn’t that mean something people?

Maybe I’ll come around one day and embrace the metal. Until that doubtful day, I’ll stick with mom-and-pop bookstores that serve caramel lattes and make it their missions to bring authors in for signings and readings.

And I’ll happily spend hours rummaging used book store shelves to find the perfect dusty hardback and scooping up one more copy of “Go Dog Go” to remind me that my almost-teenager once devoured that book for hours at a time, before she knew what the alphabet was.

And sometimes, if you spend enough time in those shelves, you’ll find an old musty copy of your favorite book as a kid. Mine? “Bread and Jam for Frances.” I did find it once and I got to love every worn-out page all over again.

Am I overly sentimental on the subject? Maybe. Don’t even get me started about how this will affect bookmark sales.


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