A Dozen Things You Can’t Do With An E-Book…

Earlier this week, there was a post featured on Freshly Pressed that made me angry (http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2010/08/11/its-the-end-of-the-book-as-we-know-it-and-i-feel-fine/ …so angry, that I felt compelled to write this one. 

For those of you who are unaware, I am the co-owner of an antiquarian bookstore which is just now celebrating its 10th Anniversary of providing out-of-print hardcovers to discriminating readers.  We are not getting rich, but we love the feeling we get when we sell a book to a customer who has been looking for it for years! 

This seems to be the age of instant gratification…however, I have had many book collectors confess that they like the “thrill of the hunt” as much as actually reading the books they purchase.  These are the customers who help keep our business alive!  

Another thing that makes my heart glad is when a young adult comes in looking for classic literature: we have several college-age kids who stagger out of our store bearing stacks of books by authors including Austen, Tolstoy, and Steinbeck.  I love those kids! 

Here is my list of a dozen things you can’t do with an e-book: 

1. Appreciate the fine binding.  For our Anniversary Open House, I did a display called “The Art of the Book” featuring bindings from 1629 (our oldest book) through the 1930’s.  You will never see an e-book that looks like this: 

"On Friendship" by Cicero/Emerson, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1909


2. Smell it.  I can’t tell you how many people come into our store and comment on how it smells (it smells GOOD, like old books).  If you can smell your e-book, put down your machine…you have issues! 

3. Take off the dustjacket.  A lot of people remove the dustjacket while they’re reading a book to keep it from getting crinkled.  Since e-books don’t have dustjackets, you can’t take it off! 

This book has TWO dustjackets!

4. Stick your bookplate in it.  We have bought books for our store with quite beautiful bookplates in the front: “From the Library of Reed A. Novella.”  It’s often fun to see who owned a book before you did! 

5. Have the author sign it.  We just acquired a signed Lucy Maud Montgomery book (“Anne of Ingleside”, first Canadian edition with dustjacket).  Since she rarely signed her work, it will be listed for at least 4 figures…no e-book will ever be sold for that much! 

6. Use a bookmark.  There are so many beautiful bookmarks out there!  We have a collection of them that we’ve found in the books we’ve bought. 

This is an antique bookmark with a New Year's theme...

7. Read in the bathtub.  Taking electronic equipment into water is never a good idea, but I know plenty of people who read real books in the tub! 

8. Read during a power outage.  Batteries only last so long – at some point, your reader will have to be plugged in.  Real books can be read with a flashlight or by candlelight. 

9. Display it on a bookshelf.  I collect the book “Lucile” by Owen Meredith (Lord Edward Bulwer Lytton) solely for its bindings (https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/my-bucket-list/).  I will not be adding an e-book to my collection. 

10. Lend it to a friend.  I love recommending books to friends, but it is currently legally impossible to share e-books.   

11. Pass it on to your grandchildren.  We are fortunate to have many books from the early 1800’s at our store.  I’m sure that the technology to read any e-books produced in 2010 will be obsolete in 200 years (maybe even in 10 years!). 

12. Have it increase in value.  In very good condition, some books that sold for $2 in the late 1800’s are worth considerably more than that today…this will never be the case with e-books. 

This history of Manitoba published in 1890 is listed for $500.00 U.S...its original price was probably in the $2 range.


Sorry for the small print in this post…I can’t seem to make it any bigger!  


Filed under books, rants

32 responses to “A Dozen Things You Can’t Do With An E-Book…

  1. Great post, Wendy. I agree. I love the James Agee book, and the friendship book is gorgeous. Love books.

  2. Oh, this is really cool, Wendy. It’s so wonderful to see someone articulate what I couldn’t quite articulate myself. We are moving towards a different era indeed (well, maybe we’re already in it!) and I find myself caught in the middle (reflective of my age, I suppose). While I love books, the earth feel of them, the look of them, the beauty, I understand the move our society is making toward e-books … it’s really a continuation of the computer generation, I think. Movies, music, news, now books. Sad and liberating all at once, if that’s possible.

    I’ll always keep my favorites with me in a real tangible copy. And some day I hope Luna will want them. And I do hope — pray — books never lose their popularity. So, hopefully we can find a good middle ground. What do you think?

    • Hi Juliana:

      I was thrilled the other day when my oldest daughter (now 24 and mom to my almost 1-year-old granddaughter) came over and scooped up most of the books I’d bought for her when she was a child…it amazed me how much it seemed to mean to her that I had kept them! “I loved this one!” she kept saying. I often didn’t even remember that she liked them that much!

      In your unique situation, I can see how e-books would be convenient for you…i.e not taking up extra space. However, I hope when you have more room, that you will take up some of it with classic literature and books that you really love!

      Thanks for your comments!

      Happy trails,


      • Wendy, the other day I thought of another thing we can’t do with e-books that I thought I’d share with you: they’re not storybooks we can read to our children (and grandchildren) before they go to bed or any other time of the day.


      • Thanks, Juliana…I never even thought about reading to kids! My granddaughter’s bedroom is Dr. Seuss-themed. I think I’ve bought her every Seuss book available. I think it will be a while before we can read to her anyway…she’s so squirmy!


  3. Ahhh, the smell of books…nothing better!

  4. smalltownbiglife

    Amen! E-books can’t become your friends!

  5. I have something to add to your list…

    Being able to ruffle the tops of the pages when you get to a really great part and can’t wait to read what happens next.

    I wrote a post some time ago about how my husband hates that there are always millions of books lying around our house and said he was going to get me one of the ereaders. I refused! While I am sure they are great for a lot of things, I couldn’t stand not having my house filled with books. Not being able to see that the are however many pages left. Ruffling the tops of the pages. The feel of a book in my hand. So put down another vote for real paper books over ereaders.

  6. Tracy

    I totally agree Wendy! Unless I’m ever in a situation where I had to travel for a long time and I couldn’t do without my library… I am old school when it comes to books. Numbers 7 and 10 on your list especially! Also I actually like re reading some books and seeing tear marks on the pages where something really got to me. Also you can fall asleep with a good book in mid read and not worry about rolling on a $200 device or it dropping off the bed. Lol. Also a lot of my books get donated to the library… Can’t really do that with ebooks. I’m totally with you on this one sister!

  7. infernalmemo

    Great post, Wendy. #2 made me laugh!

  8. Wonderful post! An e-book isn’t even a real book to me in that sense!

    A huge part of my love for books is the fact that they engage your senses…the different covers of various editions, hardbound for posterity and paperbacks for reading in bed (how does one read an e-book in bed?), the simple thrill of turning the page, making notes or sticking post-its on pages for book club readings, and the smell like you said. Oh the smell of a good book! I forget how many times I’ve buried my nose in a book to inhale it’s musty, papery scent 🙂

    Also I’ve never understood why people think it’s tough to travel with books. Maybe you can’t carry an entire library, but surely a couple of books is no big deal!

    Paper over electronics every single time!


  9. Hi! I’ve found you via Sunshine in London, and I’ve also “seen” you on a couple of the other blogs I read.

    I so agree with you about books. Lately, because of health issues I’ve found it difficult to read and have listened to some audiobooks. But it’s NOT the same!

    Recently, we turned a room we weren’t using into a library/reading room, and have finally unpacked all our books (which were still in boxes after 2 moves). It’s such a thrill just to go in there and look at them! Have re-discovered books I got years ago.

    • Welcome, Lisa! Glad to find another kindred reading spirit! Sunshine is my “almost twin”…we were born 9 days apart in the same year, both worked in non-profit communications, and share a love of music and language. Wendy

  10. All true. And, since using a Kindle for the first time, I have discovered another: the ability to flip back. I sometimes bookmark passages in books as I read, so i can refer back to them. Or, more often, I read something and want to refer back to another section without having bookmarked it. I can’t do either of those with the Kindle.

  11. I agree. If it not a REAL book, then it just isn’t a real book!

  12. I love print books. The way they smell, their weight, having them on my bookshelves, sharing them, etc. Ebooks can’t really compete. On the other hand, I see the advantages of ebooks too. Ultimately, if I really like a book, I’m going to want it in print…but I may still get the ebook first because of it’s portability and convenience. I think ebooks and print books can coexist peacefully.

  13. I actually wrote a non-fiction version of my thoughts on the Kindle, and it featured many of the same points in your post. I remember Jeff Bezos on Oprah giving Kindles to the audience and they all squealed when Bezos showed them how they could get novels in 30 seconds. I hoped Oprah would ask, “Is this what literature has been missing all these years–the ability to get in 30 seconds what will take us 20 hours to read?”

  14. Goodness, you have an amazing blog! I enjoyed the discussion on books vs e books. I read several books at a time and have them turned over and piled up on top of each other as I go through the night reading. As I’m recently retired I can stay up and read as long as I want. I’ll always be the real book type but as long as people are reading good stuff that is the main thing. I’ll check in again ,bye for now.

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