Near the end of the movie Big, Josh Baskin the Elder presents an idea for, as described by one of the suits in the meeting, a “computerized comic book”. I saw the movie shortly after I turned 14. Even then, when computers and electronics were the awesomest of everything, I hated the idea of a computerized comic book.
For one, I was aghast at the price point Baskin was working with, just as the suits were. A retail of $24.99? For a comic book? And each new “issue” will run you $6.95? Yeeeah – I’ll pass. Baskin definitely hit a homerun with the building-that-turns-into-a-robot-that-turns-into-a-dinosaur, and I loved his ideas on the Squeegie Doll line, but he missed by a mile on this one.
Personally speaking, there’s no way I would choose a computerized comic book over the real thing. The feel of a brand-new comic right off the rack, the crazy ads for x-ray glasses and Grit and Sea-Monkeys, the option to polybag each one and save them for your grandkids, or a rainy day – for me, these things are irreplaceable. About a year ago, I bookmarked a site that catalogued every issue of The Amazing Spider-Man electronically.
For X dollars a month, you could read to your heart’s content. Knowing that the odds of me setting my hands on a Spider-Man #1 were non-existent, I thought this would be a great way to get to know all of the back issues I’d missed out on. I was wrong. I haven’t been back to that site because I have no interest. I decided that I’d rather read a real comic book about a Monchichi’s quest for a magical friendship bracelet than an electronic comic book.
I have the same feelings about eBooks, and until an army of evil technocrats is able to render real books extinct, I won’t invest in a Nook or a Kindle. One argument in favor of eBooks is that they’re more portable than an actual book. My answer to that is: do a few more bicep curls, and you should be fine.
Proponents of eBooks also cite that they’re better for the environment. I don’t have the up-to-date figures on global deforestation at hand, but in our quest to save trees, books are at the bottom of my list of things we should think about doing away with. I mean, we’re talking about books — with covers and pages and binding and smells and colors and a place on a bookshelf (the most underrated piece of furniture in any home), and getting to the point where we have enough books to form things called studies and libraries.
Books are fun to read. They’re nice to look at. They’re fun to collect. They’re fun to share. I don’t think they’re meant to be read on a rectangular computer screen and stored on a jump drive.
I’m not against technology – it’s made countless improvements to our quality of life. But how do you improve on a book? You can’t.
If you remember one thing from this post, remember this: anything read on a Nook or a Kindle isn’t a book – it’s a pdf.
A note from the other guy at WritingBold:
hi, here’s Tommaso speaking. I feel like adding a few words to what Brian said, because I see the matter from another point of view, the one of… a believer. Since I bought a Kindle
1) I read more
I agree that for some books the physical copy is still a must, and those I buy in the classic format, especially when there is some added value to the pure text (for example, they are good to look at, or made with high quality materials).
When it comes to comics I have mixed feelings: I like to skim the physical thing, but recently I bought a few issues of Saga in electronic format because there was no realistic way to get them where I live for a reasonable amount of money – or in a reasonable amount of time. Also, let’s face it, modern apartments are not made for dead-tree lovers. I’m already struggling enough with the amount of old newspapers and magazines piling in the corners.
I’m not sure I will ever reach a point where I wouldn’t buy anything on paper anymore, but you can be damn sure that I don’t miss at all the weight of a George R. R. Martin novel in my commuter bag.