« Return to Blog Listings
Nov. 27 2012

Paper vs. Electronic

By Judith Krummeck | Posted in Host Blogs | 7 Comments

If you take the New York Times (as in subscribe to it or read it regularly) you may have noticed that the Book Review now includes a segment called By the Book, which features a Q&A with various writers. This week, it’s the American novelist and nonfiction writer, Anne Lamott, and my attention was caught by her final response to the question, Do you read paper or electronic books?

“I read both paper and e-books, but please don’t tell my publisher this. E-books are great for instant gratification—you see a review somewhere of a book that interests you, and you can start reading it five minutes later. At least I still know it is wrong. But when all is said and done, holding a printed book in my hands can be a sacred experience—the weight of the paper, the windy sound of pages turning, like a breeze. To me, a printed book is like a cathedral or a library or a beach—holy space.”

Dyana and I were talking about e-books the other day and I confessed to her that I haven’t read anything on my Kindle since I took it with me on my loooong journey to Africa in August. It is certainly marvelous to be able to download several books onto something as light and handy as a Kindle, and there is no doubt that it is a convenient way to read quickly and easily. But I so completely share Anne Lamott’s view that holding a printed book can be akin to a sacred experience. I am in love with the tactile, visual and olfactory aspects of reading. When an order arrives from Amazon, I rip open the package immediately and, once I have turned the book over and over in my hands and stroked the cover, the next thing I do is open it at random and just inhale the gorgeous smell of a new book.  There can be none of that with a Kindle. I find it very clunky to “page” back and forth in a book on an electronic reader, and the gray, generic presentation is a bit depressing. The thing is, I don’t simply want to consume the contents of a book I want the sensual experience of absorbing it, one that is enhanced by the way particular typefaces are laid out on a page or how the cover identifies the book. When I think of my Jane Austen collection, for instance, I always conjure up in my mind’s eye the slender, leather-bound volumes that were given to me for my 21st birthday—the way the slightly crinkly pages have the imprint of the type, the way the smell conjures up for me Regency England—it’s part of the joy of going back to them.

I have been afraid that my luke warm response to my Kindle somehow branded me as a fuddy-duddy—someone who was not keeping up with the times. Reading Anne Lamott’s view made me feel validated!

Anne Lamott’s complete interview is here:



Tags:, ,
Judith Krummeck


Judith is WBJC's afternoon host. Her full bio can be read here.

7 Responses to Paper vs. Electronic

  • Reed Hessler
    Reed Hessler says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Judith, and as for my wife Dyane, who is the real book reader in our house, that would go double or perhaps even triple. I feel the same way about magazines and newspapers. And I especially feel that way about CD’s and vinyl versus downloads and Ipods. For me, a record album is a sacred art form. The twelve songs contained on it reflect on each other, and are intended to be heard from beginning to end in the order in which they were recorded. At least classical music puts a lock on remixes. Symphonies, concertos, sonatas, etc. are generally heard from the first movement through the last in a single listening. Sure there is a place for excerpts, and anthologies can be wonderful, but it saddens me to see them totally supplant our listening options. As you with your Jane Austen books, I experience a record album physically and visually. It was bad enough when CD’s shrunk the size of vinyl LP’s. No longer could you prop a record jacket up against your wall for a visual accompaniment to the music you were hearing. But I was pleased when CD reissues began to reproduce the original LP labels. For me, a Beatles single like “Strawberry Fields Forever” evokes in my mind’s eye the yellow and orange Capitol Records label from 1967, and it was thrilling to see that produced on a CD. Some might call it mere nostalgia, but to me it is so much more: an intrinsic visual correlative to the listening experience.

    • Diana Ross
      Diana Ross says:

      At last year’s Miracle on 34th Street, a little girl pointed to the LP tree sculpture and asked her parents “what are those things?”

      “They’re records honey.”

      “What are ‘records’?”

      “Big CDs honey”

  • Judith Krummeck
    Judith Krummeck says:

    And in twenty or thirty years’ time, when books and music are presented in ways we can’t even conceive of now, perhaps people will feel nostalgia for their Kindles and CDs!

    • Diana Ross
      Diana Ross says:

      I use my tablet for some e-reading, but mostly for audio books. The few books I have read electronically were often forgotten before the loan period expired from the library. Either I didn’t pick good books, or the visual cue to read was missing.

  • Tom Brown says:

    Not “fuddy-duddy,” Ms. Krummeck, but “Luddy,: as am I also.

    • Judith Krummeck
      Judith Krummeck says:

      If by “Luddy” you mean “Luddite”, as in the English artisans who protested against the machinery introduced during the Industrial Revolution, then, yes, I would have to agree! 🙂

  • Diana Ross
    Diana Ross says:

    I smell my books too! I wonder why we do that? I love how used books can tell you something about where they’ve been. An old shop manual that smells like a garage, a cookbook that smells like cookies…

    Mark loaned me a book awhile back and the first thing I did was smell the pages. He had been reading it at Faders and it had a wonderful pipe tobacco smell blended with that book smell we all seem to love.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *