What is lost with ebooks

I don’t have an e-reader yet. I’m not one of those old school holdouts, clinging to my cassette tape collection and trashing every new technology just because it’s new. I’d buy an iPad if I had the spare cash and I see the advantages of the format. The book collection takes up a lot less wall space and, while it may not be the most romanticized image of motherhood, I’ve spent many a night rocking a baby to sleep while reading a book on my phone.

But some things are lost with electronic books. They have no history, none of the idiosyncrasies that a bound book can carry. You can’t check out an ebook from the library and find a stranger’s notes in the margins. There are several free little library boxes along my jogging route that would be impossible with ebooks. And, of course there’s Robin Hood.

Robin Hood, Copyright 1912

My grandmother gave me this book when I was a girl. It has a copyright of 1912 and is literally falling apart at the seams, but throughout the text are black and white illustrations that children have colored over the years. This book is part of my history in a way that no electronic version of Robin Hood could ever be. My great uncles are all dead, but I have a piece of their boyhood dreams with me.

I’ve always loved Giles’ take on the matter too: “Books smell musty and rich. The knowledge gained from computers has no texture, no context. It’s there and then it’s gone. If it’s to last, then the getting of knowledge should be tangible. It should be smelly.”