An E-Book Fan, Missing the Smell of Paper and Glue
This past weekend, while visiting New York on a short work-related trip, I was reminded of how much I miss printed books. I set out to wander the city aimlessly, and I came across a small, old corner bookstore along the cobbled streets of the West Village.
June 18, 2012
By Nick Bilton
This past weekend, while visiting New York on a short work-related trip, I was reminded of how much I miss printed books.
I set out to wander the city aimlessly, and I came across a small, old corner bookstore along the cobbled streets of the West Village.
I immediately stopped, looking at the dozens of books in the shop’s window, and it quickly occurred to me that I had not been into a physical bookstore in months. Instead, I now shop in online digital bookstores and read novels on my Kindle or iPad.
So I went inside, pushing open the large wooden door, which creaked like a prop borrowed from a horror-movie set. As I closed it behind me, a bell on the top dinged. A girl behind the counter looked up, smiled and went back to reading her book. A few customers quietly milled about.
There were, of course, books stacked everywhere. Thick ones. Thin ones. Large and small. I immediately felt a sense of nostalgia that I haven’t felt in a long time. The scent of physical books — the paper, the ink, the glue — can conjure up memories of a summer day spent reading on a beach, a fall afternoon in a coffee shop, or an overstuffed chair by a fireplace as rain patters on a windowsill.
IPads and Kindles, in comparison, don’t necessarily smell like anything.
For those of us who have switched to e-readers, the e-book shopping experience, while immediate and painless, is about as sentimental as a trip to the family doctor. There are no creaking doors, or bells that announce your arrival so someone can smile at you as you walk inside. There isn’t even anything distinctive in the size, shape or feel of the book you’re buying.
There is no nostalgia in online book shopping.
Before the days of the iPad, one of my favorite Saturday afternoon activities was to go to a local bookstore, wander the aisles picking out books I might like, then plop myself down in the corner to examine the first few pages of each, deciding what to buy.
As I tiptoed through the bookstore in New York, I thought about doing just that. But then I thought about having to lug those volumes back to San Francisco.
I was reminded of the impracticality of these physical books. While they were beautiful, I remembered that I wouldn’t be able to search for specific words in them. Or share passages with friends, simply by copying and pasting, on Twitter and Facebook. Or that I can’t stuff 500 different books in my backpack without breaking my back.
I ended up walking out of the bookstore without buying anything.
Yes, I miss physical books. I miss bookstores, too. I miss them a lot. I only hope that someone figures out how to give their digital counterparts a little more feeling.