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Books

Painting by Vladislav Nagornov

I like books. I remember the thrill it gave me when I learned to read in first grade. The single page (plastified) stories about an astronaut — that was in the 1960s; it was the age of the first space explorations and the US were preparing going to the moon. In later years I was reading books in my room when my friends were playing outside.

Some people don't get the joy of reading and re-reading. They'll say: “What's the point in reading a book a second time if you already know how it ends?” Oscar Wilde didn't agree. He said: “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” I'm with Oscar Wilde. It's not just about the book's plot. It's about the flow of words. If you can look at a painting twice, then why wouldn't you read a book more than once?

Tsundoku

One problem all book lovers face is space. Your place has only room for so many books. Some people solve this by getting their books from the local library, but I also know many people for whom this isn't an option: books are things to be owned, not leant. I agree. As a consequence you'll soon have more books that bookshelf space. Books end up piled up on the floor, in piles just high (or low) enough to be able to pick a book from them without too much trouble.

Piling up the books apparently works so well that you keep buying new books, adding them to ever more piles. Many book readers suffer from “tsundoku”, the habit of always buying more books, most of which end up unread, though you will read them Real Soon Now. I'm a tsundoku victim too.

Digital

Real book lovers will scoff at digital books. Books are meant to leaf through, feel the touch of the paper. Well, they're right, but digital books are so convenient. I bought a Kindle Paperwhite , which I really like.

kindle
Kindle Paperwhite

The good

The nice thing about e-readers is that you can take hundreds of books with you, and still not need more space than half the thickness of a pocket book, so it's ideal for taking on holiday. And digital books also solve the bookshelf space problem.
An other advantage is that e-books don't wear out by dog-ears or cracked spines, and while not completely waterproof they're less sensitive to moist than ordinary books; a few drops of rain won't harm the reader, while a single drop of water on paper already damages the page.
And you can hold a cup of coffee while holding the e-reader in your other hand; paper books require that you hold them with both hands.

The bad

One disadvantage mentioned by book lovers is that the e-book doesn't have the feel of the paper and the leafing through the pages. That's mainly subjective, and before I had my first e-reader I held the same objections. Now I know I don't need this per se.
An other disadvantage is that you can't jump easily between pages; in a paper book you can pause reading on page 80, skip to page 315 to look up something there, and return to page 80 in seconds. While it's not impossible to implement such a feature in e-readers there's a problem: page numbers don't mean much in e-books. Depending on your settings a given paragraph may appear on page 56 at one moment, and on page 49 at another.
And there's a third major disadvantage I really loathe: e-books are too expensive. Take for instance the short novel Drei männer im Schnee  by Erich Kästner. The paperback edition costs € 7.90, which is OK for a book of 240 pages. But the Kindle edition is € 15.99, which is more than double the price of the paperback. Especially when you know that the cost of the Kindle edition to Amazon is nearly zero. Maybe Amazon will say it's a compensation for pirating (I don't know about that), but this way Amazon may in effect encourage pirating, instead of decreasing it. I guess e-books would get less pirated when they are fairly priced, which means in any case not more than the paper version. Fortunately there are thousands of free e-books, for which the copyright has expired. You can find many of them on Project Gutenberg .

Despite the success of e-readers like the Kindle, and even more of tablet computers I don't believe that the paper book will disappear anywhere in the near future; the digital book will sit side by side with it.

Bookmarks

I have a habit of reading more books than one at a time, and when you look at my bookshelf you'll see that most books have a bookmark in them (often business cards, either my own or others'). Which book I want to read at any moment depends on my mood, and I have no problem putting a title aside for a couple of week before picking it up again. Luckily my e-reader also has a bookmark for each book I started reading.

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