August 28, 2012

You can’t put an ebook on a shelf

I love books. I love the look and feel of a nice hardcover, I love to sit down in an armchair and read for hours, and I love to see a great book when I pass my bookshelf. Books are an addiction for some, collect your favorite ones (or possibly everything you’ve read, which I find to be a bit much), and display them for all to see, or for your private pleasure.

Books are part of the interior for a lot of people, and they will continue to be.

I read a lot, and I probably buy ten books every month. All of them are ebooks these days, with the odd hardcover found in a vintage store.

It’s not the same thing, reading in the armchair on my Kindle or iPad. I still prefer the feel of a physical book there, although I’d pick digital over a cheap paperback any day. Ebooks are convenient, however. My reading is synchronized across different devices, and should I be without a Kindle or my iPad, I can always resume reading on my iPhone if I have some time to kill. When I travel I never bring physical books, I prefer to travel light.

My bookshelf looks the same as it did years ago. It isn’t growing because every great book I read sits in my Kindle library. I might pick up some of them should I stumble upon them perhaps, but I doubt it. I want to save a physical book because it was a great read but also because it is an item that I have imbued with sentimental value. I save it because I want to, sometimes because I might want to read it again but often just because I liked it and would like it to sit there, in my bookshelf. I can lend it to a friend, or pick it up again should I want to.

My ebooks sit in the archived part of my Kindle library. I rarely look there, because there is no reason to. It consists of good and bad books, none of them imbued with sentimental value, and it continues to grow, making it harder to find the gems again. I might love a book, I might read it again, but the fact that it is in my Kindle library isn’t the reason should that come to pass. Compare that with walking past a bookshelf, a title on a spine calling for your attention, begging you to pull out the book and start reading, and suddenly you’re sitting there, reading a book you love.

The Kindle library is awfully bleak in comparison.

I’m a big believer in ebooks, I think they’re great and I’m definitely certain that they are good for both the industry and for readers alike. But you can’t put ebooks in the bookshelf, that is an undisputed fact.

At least until someone builds a bookshelf that will display your ebooks in a similar fashion as your physical books, of course. Stacking ebook readers sure doesn’t count, neither does putting an ugly screen that cycles your ebook covers from your personal library, it needs to be more refined than that.

Refined, but also sentimental.

I can’t wait to see who solves this, and how. Until then I’ll have to live with the status quo on my bookshelf.

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