Seriously, it seems that all the media does anymore is talk about the decline of the print book.  And with Google announcing it’s e-book service this week, the demise of the paper book has again been prophesied. But, in the spirit of Monty Python, I would like to proclaim, on behalf of books, “I’m not dead yet!”

Reasons why books will always be a part of my life.

1. I’m an academic. I teach political theory. That means I teach texts that are thousands of years old. So not only do I have my own notes in the margins, I have my teaching notes in the margins. I’ve tried e-readers, and though you can annotate and mark, there is something radically different about writing your own notes rather than typing.  Because I like to draw diagrams and arrows, and number things and write “Pbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbtttt!!!” in the margins, that is especially hard to convey in e-texts, where the notes are detached from the actual text.

2. Flipping back and forth is difficult. If I want to compare multiple passages on an e-book reader, it’s a pain. With an actual text, I can put a finger in one spot, and a finger in the other. Much easier.

3. I won’t be out a lot of money if I drop a paperback in the bathtub. I don’t think hairdrying a Kindle is part of the approved owner’s manual techniques.

4. Books smell good. Kindles smell like copper.

5. Conflict electronics.

6. I like taking Aquinas’ multi-volume Summa Theologiae into class and dropping it on the table. It keeps students from whining (as much) about the little bit of it I made them read. You don’t get the same effect with an electronic file.

7. Books will survive solar flares and electromagnetic pulse weapons.

8. I have a three year old. Him tearing a page is less traumatic than breaking the screen.

9. Books are easier to swap with friends. I don’t lose my entire collection when I give one book away. I lend you my reader, and then what am I supposed to do? Go outside?

10. I am a reader. I could go all hermeneutical on you, but I am the reader. Not some piece of electronics.

11. I like browsing people’s bookshelves to get a sense of their personality. That’s much less intrusive than flipping through someone’s electronic device.

Having said all that, I’m going to try teaching using e-texts next semester. The school is pushing us to reduce costs to students, so we’ll see how it goes. Who knows, maybe I am being overly-Luddite in my approach. But my final reason for preferring books to e-texts is personal. My dad saves news clippings and cards from his kids in between the pages of books that he is reading when he gets them. Going through his books is like discovering a journal of my dad’s life. Books are personal in a way I don’t see e-texts being.

So, add your own reason to prefer books to e-books, or tell me I’m misguided and out of touch. And tell me which reader I should get for next semester. :) The most convincing comment will earn you a book from our stacks. And don’t forget to enter our “Anticipate the Best of 2010” contest from last week while you’re at it.


  • Ruth Arnell

    RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

    View all posts