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Mar 6, 2009

Apocalypse of the Books

Repent, sinner. The end is near.

I now have a Kindle. Even though I've had two ebooks published (under another pen name), and have often purchased ebooks to read, I've never had a dedicated ebook reader before. I insisted I didn't need one, wouldn't want one, couldn't enjoy one.

I love it.

As I curled up in bed, cuddling my Kindle, the bittersweet thought hit me, Oh, so it's true. Treebooks are dead.

You see, I can't even call them just "books" any more, because "books" for ever after will make me think of the content, without necessarily defining the medium. We no longer have mail, we have email or snail mail. We no longer have books, we have ebooks and treebooks.

The image of book apocalypse, by the way, I grokked from a real, recent incident, in which an Amazon shipper abandoned a warehouse full of books.

Here's my prophecy. Treebooks will not go extinct. There are too many people, like me, who love to caress old covers, turn pages, assemble a forest of spines on magnificant bookcases. But I fear, it is also people like me who will drive the explosion of ereaders and ebooks. Because what I love most about the Kindle is that I can download a book instantly, as soon as I covet it, without going anywhere, without waiting for shipping. Like most introverts, I find anything which helps me interact more with fictional people than flesh people to be a lure.

If I want to turn a book into a social forum, however, it's easier than ever to add in my own comments and share these with friends, so that our own community commentary interlaces the book, adding a new layer to the original text. Every book can become the mishnah of its own gemara, every ereader a compendium of living talmuds.

What, then, will be the fate of treebooks? I fear, sadly, as ebooks and ereaders become the norm, treebooks will become a luxury. Collectors like me will still shell out hard currency for beautifully bound new editions, but only of books we truly adore. Used books will jump in value.

I have a library of over 10,000 treebooks. A constant battle in our family is where to put my library. I want my library lining the walls of our house. Every wall. (Which is what it would take -- our house is not nearly so vast as my collection.) My husband wants my library in the garage, or, preferably, someone else's garage. One of his motivations in buying me a Kindle was to convince me to sell or give away most of my treebooks.

It's had the opposite effect. I'm more desparate than ever to hold onto my treebabies. They're going to be rare collector's items by the end of my lifetime.


Samantha said...

I need tree books! I work on a computer all day long and can't look at screens!

Tara Maya said...

E-paper is different. Trust me, it really is. It doesn't feel like a computer. Or even an iPhone. (Though there is a Kindle ap for the iPhone, apparently called a "Phindle").

The one thing still lacking in epaper, in my opinion, is color. How can you judge a book without its cover? Seriously, add in color for beautiful illustrations.

Tara Maya said...

Oh, and I'm terrified of dropping my Kindle. Or leaving it in my car when I go anywhere. Used to be, I figured even if someone stole my paperback, no big deal. Now it would be a big deal. That part kind of sucks.

Scott said...

Tara, as a new convert to the Kindle . . . I'm right there with you! BTW, I purchased the extended warranty specificially for the reason that I might drop my Kindle or . . .as happened the other night, my cat stepped on the Kindle. Thankfully, the cover protected the Kindle! Whew!!

I also love treebooks. I've bought more than one book because of the texture of the paper. How weird is that? Luckily, the books turned out to be good reads.

In the end, I'm all for the instant gratification of 'whispernet', but I'll still buy the occasional tree book to line the overflowing shelves of my library. After all, overflowing bookcases are the sign of great intelligence. ; )


greekwitch said...

Thank you for following my post and also for the great advice. If i do it i 'm sure i am going to have great time.

Natalie Whipple said...

Oh, I do want one of these, but I have no money. Someday. And I'm sure I'll be converted. Love my treebooks too, but the Kindle sounds so convenient.

Tara Maya said...

I'm sure the price will come down in a few years. At least, I hope so.

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

Okay, it may be my geekiness shining forth, but who else is going to miss new book smell? Or old book smell for that matter? Treebooks are so comfortingly solid and familiar. I have my dad's college copy of Ender's Game, beautifully bedraggled. A decades old Kindle file would feel like what? Nothing, nothing at all.

Tara Maya said...

The tactile lovliness of books will keep them on the market as upscale collector's items. They will have the best paper, gorgeous covers and binding, crisp print.

But don't forget, an e-reader is tactile too. It has heft, it has sleekness, it can be dolled up in bling or granny's knitted Kindle-sweater or a fancy skin. And it has all your favorite books on it, so if you like to read more than one at a time, as I do, you don't have to choose which one to pack.

You can snuggle with your toddler on the couch while reading it. (Though see my complaint about color illustrations, which means it's not suitable for children's books yet). It's really wonderful.

The thing I hate about ebooks most is their obslescnece. As with computers, I expect a new e-reader will come out every year or more, and you'll have to continually dance your files from one platform to another. THAT I don't relish.

But I don't relish doing it with computers either, and yet, I still use my computer.