A full-page ad on the back of the November issue of Smithsonian magazine caught my attention recently. It showed a stack of first edition books; the copy read, Paper: because it’ll be remembered longer. Bit of a fragment really—better than what? Apparently the word the sponsor wants us to fill in the blank with is digital files, more specifically ebooks. This would be the equivalent of the National Species Ad Council running a promotion, “Homo erectus has existed for over a hundred-thousand years and homo sapien has just arrived, so let’s all stick with the proven winner. Well, we know how that turned out.
It’s interesting how often I read or hear something that proclaims, “This is bad.” And far too many of us just agree, “Oh man, that’s bad and we have to really hate this and love that.” It seems silly but I think we all take things at face value from time to time without really taking the time to read things carefully. But the ebook debate, a debate I simply don’t think needs to exist, rages on.
I read a comment on a blog post where the author was sharing her list of failed digital storage devises, saying that her paper books were still fine but her digital backups were gone. She was failing to point out how many paper books have been destroyed by age, fire, water, wind, sand, and hungry sasquatches over the ages. Frankly paper books, well cared for, can last a very long time, but paper is pretty darn delicate. I’ve lost lots of paper books over the years through a variety of mishaps. Overall paper books have lasted hundreds and hundreds of years because there were people who took care to preserve them. The very same can be done for digital formats. As a writer I’m fairly obsessed with backing up, and with so many storage options available, including the free online opportunities, by sheer numbers I have no doubt that digital files will be well preserved for the ages.
But the list of ill-conceived ebook conclusions is long and often comes from people much more intelligent then me, but we are all susceptible to our personal leanings. A friend of mine recently commented about an ad she saw where they touted that one can read an ebook in direct sunlight, and then observed that you can read a paper book in direct sunlight as well. True, but the statement fails to include the long list of things that one can do with an ebook reader than can’t be done with a traditional paper book. A co-worker of mine, while discussing some possible new URLs for Tricorner Publishing, suggested, BooksYouCanHold.com; perhaps she doesn’t realize that you hold an ebook as well.
OK, I’ll wrap this up. The real debate should be why is there a debate at all? Why does it have to be either-or? Why does it always have to be war? I have lots and lots of paper books, many of which are special to me. I take great care of them, treasure them, and never plan to give them up. But I still get an excited tingle every time I turn on my Kindle too.