21 days for Dreamwidth, #17:How many people on your reading list do you know IRL?
About half? *counts* Twenty-eight of forty-nine, plus two I've met only once (hi, blaisepascal
!). More like three-fifths, then.
Book Reader vs Book Owner
There is a growing distinction between the book reader and the book owner. The book reader just wants the experience of reading the book, and that person is a natural digital consumer: Instead of a disposable mass market book, they buy a digital book. The book owner wants to give, share and shelve books.
Meh. I'm a "book owner," I guess. Have been since I bought the bright blue/green/red paperbacks of Lord of the Rings in elementary school, since I first grasped the idea that I could have books that I could read whenever I wanted to. Which I did, repeatedly, until I wore out a lot of my older paperbacks. In high school I discovered the local used bookstore, and started trading in the books I wasn't rereading as often. Later I found sources for affordable hardbacks, first through the SFBC and then from Green Valley Book Fair
, and I started building up a substantial Library. These days, I know I've really moved in to a new place when the books come out of the boxes.
But I own books because I want to read them. If a book doesn't pass the Good Enough To Reread test, into the Go-Away pile with it. I love books because I love reading, and reading is a joy that's mostly independent of the physical medium. If it's holding together and not of so poor quality that it's distracting, I don't much care whether the book is a cheap beat-up paperback or a beautiful limited edition from Subterranean
My main objection to ebooks, after technical complaints like "lack of a decent e-reader" and "lack of a consistent e-format," is the same as my objection to electronic music: there's no physical medium, no way to recover from a data crash. These days this is at least partially irrational: between backups and the ability to re-download a book or song from whichever online store, I could most likely rebuild my library if my hard drive were to explode. The fear's still there, though.
There's also the question of availability. I could see myself switching over to ebooks... but a lot of what I want to read is older and not (currently, or ever in some cases) available in a decent e-format. So if and when I go digital I'll still be hauling a bunch of physical books around, because that's my option.
I'm okay with this. I do appreciate the way books furnish a room, and I like having a physical tactile association with what I read. (There's a phrase I've been meaning to look up for months now, that I know is in the second half of a book, near the top of a left-hand page. And I imagine that when I next read Tolkien I'll get all discombobulated, because I no longer have those falling-apart primary-colored paperbacks, and the words will all be in the wrong places
I just don't think there's nearly so great a divide between "book owner" and "book reader" as the New Yorker blogger, or the Penguin Putnam executive, seem to see. In ten years, if and when print books actually become the luxury items they're supposedly threatening to, maybe. But at that point, "book" will mean "ebook," and we'll have a separate word for dead-tree editions, like with "album" and "vinyl."