Why not just throw the book at them?

I love the book. I love the feel of a book in my hands, the compactness of it, the shape, the size. I love the feel of paper. The sound it makes when I turn a page. I love the beauty of print on paper, the patterns, the shapes, the fonts. I am astonished by the versatility and practicality of The Book. It is so simple. It is so fit for its purpose. It may give me mere content, but no e-reader will ever give me that sort of added pleasure.

—Susan Hill

(Hat tip to The Passive Voice)

I respond:

I love the book. I love the weight of it in my hand, the heft of it. I especially love the hardcover book, the stiffness of the boards under the cloth. The satisfying thwack! it makes when I knock a book fetishist on the noggin with it. You can’t hit fools upside the head with an ebook.


  1. Bob McMaster says
    • Matt Osterndorf says

      The only real advantage mentioned there (that of not having to charge a book) is not a major one, except in unusual circumstances. A Kindle will hold charge for a full day of reading; demanding more seems greedy.

      My main problem with e-books is the expense. While they’re generally (although not always) cheaper than new paperbacks, they’re much more expensive than used books. I therefore only buy them when my impulse control fails me and I don’t want to wait to either come across them in a second-hand shop or order a paperback from Amazon. For instance, I read through the first hundred pages of Till We Have Faces while visiting my parents at a bed-and-breakfast, and since I couldn’t borrow it, I bought it on Kindle instead.

      • Bob McMaster says

        Mr Simon was pleased to respond in a jocular fashion; I attempted to do likewise, though, I did borrow another’s joke. While I do prefer physical books to ethereal ones and for more reasons laid out in the comic, I don’t think or feel there is a need for me to be worked up about the choices of others on this topic. I apologize for not being clearer.

      • Around these parts, used bookshops generally sell paperbacks for half the original cover price. You can, of course, get books cheaper at garage sales and rummage sales, but you will have a long and painful search to find any particular title.

        Of course there is also the one-cent used book on Amazon, but that one-cent price is always exclusive of an inflated shipping charge (which Amazon allows its affiliates to get away with – for now). I assure you that you can buy any of my own books in ebook form for less than the usual cost of shipping on a one-cent secondhand book.

        Now, the price of ebooks from Big Five publishing imprints is larceny with abuse. But the Big Five are stupid and do not want people to buy their books in electronic form.

        As for me, I usually buy ebooks. The majority of books that I buy are either out of print or never were printed. Even if I had a strong preference for paper books in general (which I haven’t), I should very strongly prefer a real and available ebook to a printed book that does not exist.

        • The Amazon one cent used books thing is great. The “inflated shipping charge” is generally just $3.99. That four dollars is, with rare exceptions, generally cheaper than e-books. You’ll find the occasional three dollar deal but normally e-books will be about five to seven or so. It’s still a good deal.

        • Matt Osterndorf says

          I assure you that you can buy any of my own books in ebook form for less than the usual cost of shipping on a one-cent secondhand book.

          I’m aware, since I’ve bought (and thoroughly enjoyed) all your books.

    • Sort of amusing, but not a very good response. “Where are we going to keep them?” is a good question, not so much because there isn’t any space but more that you save SO MUCH by storing everything on a computer/kindle.

      Take my college textbooks. They’re all electronic now. That is way, way, WAY more convenient for me.

      E-books are much cheaper to make, meaning they’re cheaper to sell. They’re automatically easier to store. I have access to all of them wherever I go.

      Books are just big sheaths of bound paper. It’s not that big a deal.

  2. E. Crook says

    I realize full well that books are just words in a particular order; I wish more people would read good stories in whatever format they choose to do so. My own personal problem with ebooks is that in the event of a power outage or other emergency I want to be able to continue reading. I am not unaware that it is also possible to ruin a physical book, but in my experience they are much more durable than technological gizmos if you treat them right – and sometimes if you don’t. For safety’s sake it would be better to have two copies in different formats, I suppose, but again, so long as there is a written language and a good story to tell in it I’ll be happy with whatever form the medium that brings it to me takes.

  3. Stephen J. says

    I’ll freely admit to being a hardcopy book fetishist, but I must take some mild exception to being called (if only by indirect implication) a fool for that. In my view, the same irrationality that makes it impossible to justify that preference also makes it unnecessary to so justify it, any more than one either can or needs to justify taste in food, music, or beauty once a certain minimum standard is met.

    I freely grant the many valuable advantages of e-readers — I had to get one myself to buy and read The End of Earth and Sky, so it was worth it for that alone. (It helped that it was a gift from a relative who’d upgraded and no longer needed the old one.) And the liberation of the market from the ideological hive-mind of publishers is a thing to be celebrated under heaven. But if the option existed to achieve those goods while still preserving the physical objects I love and the experience of reading them, I would take it in a heartbeat.

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