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A book shouldn't glow in the dark

OPINION

  • Kindle Fire
Kindle Fire (Getty Images )
August 30, 2012|By Anthony Roberts, @antthewriter | For RedEye

I recently published my first novel, "Filling in the Blanks." (Please, please ... hold your applause until the end.) It was a dream come true to finally be able to tell people they could purchase, flip through and place lovingly on a bookshelf a novel that I wrote.

I felt great when the book was released—and still do—but while plastering the good news on Facebook and Twitter, I was constantly asked one disheartening question: Is it available on Kindle?

Not that I was offended by the question. In fact, the book is available on Kindle, but I was surprised by the disproportionate ratio of inquiries about purchasing the book in digitized form.

I get it. E-readers are sleek, portable and, in today's e-crazed world, very practical. They are handy for those who like to travel light ... and some even have screens that glow in the dark. (Ooh! Ahh!)

Deep down, though, I'm a lover of tangible books. I value the ability to dog-ear pages, write notes in the margins and appreciate a well-designed cover. The acts of discovering a gem in a hidden corner of an independent bookstore or losing track of time in a library are experiences that helped me to fall in love with the written word and want to become a writer. Barring a "Total Recall" type of situation, you can't really walk around in a virtual library full of e-books. I'm just saying.

The two formats do have their respective places. Hey e-readers, you can have all the textbooks you want! Being able to enlarge data, tables, graphs and the like on a tablet actually would enhance learning for students. Also, being able to supersize your font also works well for those who may have vision problems. But let's be honest: A lot of titles are just plain better in paper and ink form.

Are Steven King horror novels really as scary on a screen? Can you underline and put stars by your favorite passages in that classic James Baldwin book if there are no actual pages? Like photographs, digital versions of books are cool, easy to share and practical. But being able to feel, hold and store real books is an experience that transcends mere convenience.

When was the last time a rare, first-edition e-book went for tens of thousands at an auction? Never. Though we live in an on-the-go society, we still tend to value things that can hold a special place in our minds or hearts. When was the last time a jpeg or a pdf did that?

So next time you're downloading the latest best-seller—may I suggest "Filling in the Blanks"?—just think, "Can the author autograph this e-copy?" I'm just saying.

Anthony Roberts is a RedEye special contributor.


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