the recent debate (inspired by Jonathan Franzen, who like most book lovers views the equation as an either/or division; who also, inexplicably, thinks "capitalists hate" traditional books because of their permanence, ignoring centuries of workers who have made the publication and distribution of books their trade) distilled a few points for me.
I'm a fairly heavy, if inconsistent reader. I can go days without picking up a book, then slam through 200 pages in an evening. I like books. I like the look and the smell of them, the color they bring to a room, the way friends notice the books lying around and the conversations this invites.
I also consume an unbelievable amount of digital text: work emails, NYTimes online, baseball blogs like Pinstripe Alley and Fangraphs and HardballTimes, the blogs of friends, g-chat, and all the corners of Wikipedia my curiosity drag me to. I don't want more electronic characters in my face, or in my life.
Carol has been reading e-books for a while now, and I think she reads e-books when she might not read the book. She likes the handling of the thing-itself less than I do, I think. She also has a harder time switching between books, grabbing a different book or the wrong one on the way out the door and then reading what you have, and the e-reader simplifies the "where'd I leave my book?" game.
I feel differently when I read. There is a climax in reaching the back cover of a book that I do not feel I would get from an e-book. The newspaper articles I read online only invite me further into the maze, drag me on to the next article. I don't know that an e-book would make me feel this way, but (so far) I have hesitated to risk my experience of a work on the new medium.
I'm sure I'll have an e-reader someday. When the books and readers are cheaper, when the copyright war is over, when they develop a satisfying way for me to annotate the text. The day will come, but it's not today.