Tag Archive for Terry Pratchett

Books and E-Books

A while back there was an article in the Telegraph with the provocative title ” Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society .” I wasn’t familiar with Franzen, and the extent of what I know about him now are that John Hodgman portrayed him as Oprah’s right-hand man in That Is All , and that some of my friends who read more literary fiction than I do have described him as being really phenomenally overrated.

E-books are a challenge to the way things have worked for books for a long, long time. [1] I don’t want to accuse Franzen or other e-book haters of being luddites or whatever, and I would expect some people to dislike using a Kindle for purely subjective reasons alone. However, calling e-books a threat to civilization is a bit much. At least as quoted in the Telegraph article, Franzen explains why he has a personal preference for paper books, along with some trite complaining about the capitalism of e-book readers [2] , but utterly fails to connect that to anything of greater significance to society. Given how great of a writer he’s supposed to be, it’s rather strange that he makes such a weak argument.

The permanence of print is a great thing, but I for one don’t only read Certified Classics that I’m sure I’ll read over and over, and some of the widely praised classics are overrated anyway. There are books I treasure in print, but (for example) the book on iPhone app design I’m currently reading will be obsolete in a few years, and I’d just as soon not add that bit of wood pulp to the clutter in the basement. I also don’t have unlimited space for books–it’s getting pretty ridiculous and I’ll have to sell some off before too long–and being able to put countless books on my Kindle is useful from a purely pragmatic standpoint. It also makes it much easier to get certain out of print books, and public domain classics can be had for free to boot. When I decided I wanted to re-read The Devil’s Dictionary , I went on Amazon and got a free e-book sent to my Kindle instantly. I didn’t get a Kindle in order to do away with paper books, especially because I own a lot of RPGs, [3] but rather to expand my options. I can put smaller RPG PDFs, fan-translated manga, free e-books from the likes of Cory Doctorow , and independent weirdness on there, along with professional e-books from the Kindle store proper.
Read more