Can you dogear an e-book?


Up early this morning, I listened to Bob Edwards talk with guests Ronald Rice and Ann Patchett. Rice is the editor of a new book, My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read and Shop (note, I’ve linked here to Amazon so you can read about this book, though the irony of buying it via Amazon is obvious). Patchett, whose fiction includes Bel Canto, is also now co-owner of a bookstore in Nashville. Both Rice and Patchett make a case for the importance of bookstores as places where recommendations go beyond the bestseller list–deep curation, if you will, and, perhaps most importantly, as community spaces where conversation and ideas flourish. According to them, physical books are essential to this process–you cannot sustain bookstores on e-books.

Years ago, news director Martha Foley’s husband Everett Smith described North Country Public Radio as “the general store of the air.”  Now, with so many competing media sources–most of them originating from anonymous national sources, rootless in terms of a specific geography–is it possible for radio, like the old country store, to survive and remain relevant? Somehow, the conversation about bookstores vs. Amazon, e-books vs. printed books strikes a parallel chord. What does a community have to do to make sure there is a place to gather or a service to cover local stories? Do e-books, as Patchett argues, erode the real place possibilities of bookstores? Do Sirius and Pandora take enough of the listener’s time away from local radio (heard over air or on digital devices) to make it impossible for local stations to be sustainable?

But back to books…earlier this week, Jackie Sauter pointed out that a series of related stories had all come through NPR in a single day. Here’s one about the upheaval and change going on in the publishing industry; one about the new frontier of  libraries and e-lending; another one about the complications for publishing companies wading into e-book publishing; and, one about author Margaret Atwood entering the world of e-publishing,  taking a different track from that being pursued by Ann Patchett.

In a post earlier this week, I asked you to tell me about what you’re reading during the holidays. I mentioned The Swerve which, in part, is about the physical and painstaking preservation of classics from the Roman and Greeks. What about preserving our literary heritage? Are there physical copies of all the e-books out there now? Does it matter?

Are you an e-book proponent? Do you love the immediate and easy access to virtually any title? Or, is the physical turning of pages or dogearing a corner the experience you prefer? Do both have a place?



  1. I have hesitated to comment on this subject because of very mixed feelings.
    I’m tempted to say print on paper is almost dead and the future will be digital until something comes along to replace digital.
    Change is happening so fast that it is hard to imagine what things will be like in another ten or twenty years.
    I began my life with books and radio. Then came TV. Then came cable and satellite. Records became 8-track, then cassetts, then CDs and now MP3.
    We can bemoan change. We can embrace change. What we can’t do is stop change.
    Remembering my grandparents, I realize as it is now, so it was then.
    When they were born in the late 1800,s, everything I took for granted as a kid didn’t exist when they were kids. There weren’t any cars or airplanes, movies, radios or telephones. They lived to see a man land on the moon and the deaths of over 100,000 from just one bomb.
    The pace continues and might even be accelerating.

  2. Leslie Anne King says:

    I received a Kindle for Christmas a year ago and find that it has not replaced the heap of “real” books around my house. I do like, especially when traveling, having a good dictionary,Bible, encyclopedia, etc easily at hand and that seems to be mostly how I’ve used it. I still drag a book bag around with a bunch of books and the Kindle.

  3. I am a confirmed ereader fan. The tactile experience is different from a paperback (the book the ereader replaces), but you get used to the difference pretty quickly. A big “con” however is that I rarely know either the title or the author of the book I am reading. For example, someone asked me last night what I was reading. I knew the author of the book I just finished was Mo Yan but only because he had made himself a minor character. The title I just now had to look up”Life and death are wearing me out”. I am now reading (as I look at the list of books in the kindle) Narcopolis: a novel, by Jeet Thayil. But I couldnt have told you that last night.

    The good news is that I never would have found either of those books just going to a book store. With the amazon system you can search and poke around and download the first chapter free. Mo Yan won the nobel prize (I hadnt heard of him before poking around in the search system). Jeet Thayil’s novel was short listed for the Booker Mann prize (I hadnt heard of him either).

    I am reading much more than before. I think that is pretty typical.

  4. jill vaughan says:

    My husband loves his kindle- but I want to pat, stroke and admire the old books- relish the turning pages and hope of a promising book I haven’t read. I like the various illustrators in different editions. I am glad for the birth of e-readers because it keeps publishers and writers going- but for me, I like bindings and paper under my fingers. There is no logic to this, but a visceral memory of the expansive pleasure of sitting down in a chair, as a child, in anticipation of the coming adventure. Our neightbors were non-readers, there were few books at my elementary school- either the english or french one I attended. but on the days when the snow swept and the wood stove baked, our books were my drug of choice, allowing me to escape the realities that were colder than the Quebec Februaries and more famliar than the shifting sands of death and loss.

    • jill vaughan says:

      the above post is weird at the end, don’t know hos to edit- so I will live with it- ignore.

      • Ellen Rocco says:

        I love your post…it paints a vivid picture and brought back memories of my own childhood and that wonderful sense of settling in with a book, ready to enter an unknown and beckoning world each time I opened a new book.