Cory Doctorow has an excellent column in the latest Locus magazine on why people don’t read e books (or e-books). I’m with him in that I don’t want to use a laptop or desktop screen to read much more than a dozen or so paragraphs. Even though I write plenty of stuff on a computer, most of the significant stuff gets printed out and read on paper so I get what I feel is a better look at it.
And while some of the dislike undoubtedly stems from the fact our associations with computers or even PDAs aren’t conducive to reading longer works, that’s just part of the reason I don’t read e-books. The main reasons are esoteric. There is just something about the feel of a book in your hands, the anticipation of opening a book to read for the first time, the sound of the pages being turned in a new book, and the familiarity of a book you’ve held in your hands several times before that reminds you of the relationship you established on prior reads. That physicality is a far more enjoyable link than an electronic version can ever provide. Sure, you can shove a PDA in your back pocket but it’s a helluva lot more uncomfortable than those hand-sized paperbacks that at least try to mold to your body while you’re walking or when you sit down.
I still miss the days of buying an LP that had a center spread, opening it and poring over it again and again as I listened to the album. As I may have mentioned before, the scene in Almost Famous where William is intently studying the cover of the Tommy album his sister left for him while listening to the LP for the first time brings many memories to mind. CDs and digital technology have largely ensured those days are gone for good. But I will never, ever opt for an electronic substitute over a real live book.
These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves.
Gilbert Highet, The Immortal Profession