On Books And Paper

There's a big discussion going on in the comic book world about digital comics. For a lot of people the physical comic is of a piece with the art or writing. I used to be that way too, collecting many long boxes full of books over the years. Recently though, what I've discovered is that while I love comics, I don't love paper. Now part of my decision when buying comics is "Do I want to take care of this paper?"

With the coming of the iPad, the digital comics world has blown up. Once upon a time comics were sold at the newsstands but switched to comic book shops selling only comics. That transition is probably about to happen again with downloadable comics. There will always be physical comics and graphic novels are here to stay, but most people will buy digital. It's happened with music and it's probably going to happen to books.

The question for me is, how do I feel about that? I'm not sure. I love books. I've been a reader since I can remember. Buying books is a special event for me. Last year I spent a couple of hours in the local bookstore Page 1 with a bunch of store credit and ended up spending $180 on brand new books. It was one of my favorite experiences of the year. I have multiple bookshelves all over my house and can barely fit all my unread books on one six-foot shelf. I've bought books I already had just for the cover. But a few weeks ago I bought a Kindle, the new version 3 one. And I love the hell out of that little thing. I'm reading Jonathan Franzen's new book Freedom which I had originally pre-ordered in hardcover but cancelled and bought on the Kindle (saving a few dollars in the process). It's unbelievable how much easier it is to carry around the 1/4 inch thick Kindle than it would be to carry a 500 page book. There's a couple of books I've been wanting to read that I've been avoiding due to their sheer bulk. Not having to take into account the physical object means I can focus on the reading, which is what I really love. Now that I have the option, I'll still some books if I want the physical object for what it is. But that's what the paper is now, an option, not a requirement of the reading experience.

After a lifetime as a book nerd, I'm learning to love books without having to love the paper.