Adoration is an understated word when describing my feelings for this guest. Our family has had the distinct pleasure of knowing Luke Robertson for much of his illustrious life. Evidence of that statement is shown here in one of my favorite photos. Luke is, um, “watching” Son #3…definitely an action shot.
Currently, Luke resides in Los Angeles, California, where he is Professor Bookman. He runs extraordinarily successful book clubs, consults for an independent children’s bookstore, and shares life with his equally amazing wife Sarah, their cats and a dog.
I am honored to begin featuring him here monthly on TommyMom!
You can find Luke at www.professorbookmans.com, where he offers a plethora of information and ideas regarding literature, children and blending the two successfully. He also has a Facebook page by the same name. Please take yourselves off of “Mute” and make Luke feel welcome here in our community by commenting with specific questions or topics you would like him to discuss. Luke welcomes your input and feels that troubleshooting is one of his best qualities!
Today, Amazon.com announced that their e-book sales are greater than their paperback and hardcover book sales combined. Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, remarked, “We had high hopes that this would happen eventually, but we never imagined it would happen this quickly…”. E-book (a.k.a. “electronic” or “digital book”) technology is making enormous leaps forward, the results of which are dramatically changing the entire book industry. From publishing, to sales, to the very way we experience reading, this technology is revolutionizing the world of literature. The success of the e-book and the many e-book reading devices (such as the Kindle, the iPad, the NOOK, etc.) should come as no surprise to consumers; e-book technology offers them unrivaled convenience and ease shopping for books. Readers can now keep thousands of books in the palm of their hand; they can buy e-book versions of the latest books at considerably lower prices than print versions; they can even receive newly purchased books within 60 seconds and they can make these purchases from all over the world. While e-books are netting companies like Amazon.com billions of dollars through millions of sales, the costs of this phenomenon can be seen right in our own communities…
As news of the latest and greatest e-book innovations are making headlines, related news regarding our local bookstores, schools, and libraries are lucky to make the front page. In the past few years, Los Angeles has seen the closing of multiple independent bookstores, an epidemic that has recently spread to the larger chain bookstores as well. This fact, coupled with the major cutbacks to the public libraries and school libraries around the city, has many people questioning whether or not this is just a sign of the times. Undoubtedly, the proliferation of e-books and their online sales has hurt the business of independent bookstores. But maybe it is hurting the way we regard our printed books as well. Perhaps bricks-and-mortar bookstores and libraries are becoming obsolete.
Working in an independent bookstore myself, I am often asked, “With all these e-books and iPads and places like Amazon, how can a bookstore compete? Do you think publishers will actually print books for much longer?” I reply, “Yes. Yes I do. They have to… after all, the fate of the world depends on it.” This is usually met with a little laugh or a chuckle, as people do not seem to realize that I am only half-joking. The truth is the vast majority of the population has no idea how powerful and important books really are. Of the few that do, only a handful realizes how powerful and beneficial print books really are, and how detrimental e-books could be to those benefits.
Although there are endless differences between e-books, print books, and the benefits of each, the most important realization people need to make is that e-books are virtual books; they are not actual books. As obvious a distinction as this is the implications may not be quite so obvious. Books are treasures, after all. When you own an actual book, you own a literal treasure. You can keep it wherever you like; you can read it any time you want; you can give it to your children to have or to hold; you can loan it to your friends; you can sell it to strangers; a book can even become an heirloom as time goes by, a family treasure. Books are material possessions and we take a great amount of pride in owning them. We even get emotionally attached to these books in a way that exceeds their material value. My wife Sarah is a perfect example.
One of Sarah’s favorite possessions is a 1970 paperback copy of Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson, which used to belong to her mother. The book’s pages are yellowed, tape holds the spine together, and its original cost, 95¢, still adorns the torn cover. To this day my wife rereads this book. Yes, she loves the story, but it is the memory of her mother reading the very same book aloud to her that she loves the most.
Connecting with literature on this intimate level is how we learn to treasure books; we have to hold them, we have to see them, and we have to share them. This is why we go to libraries, to connect with the books. This is why we buy books for our children, to teach them to love literature and care for books like the treasures they are. You cannot make this kind of connection with a digital book.
When you purchase an e-book, you virtually own it; you do not actually own it. Buying an e-book is much more like renting or leasing a book in that there are limitations to your ownership. As of now, many of the benefits listed above are not possible (or at least have significant limitations) with e-books. There is just no pride of ownership with e-books, no emotional connection, and no real magic.
There is no doubt that e-books and devices like the iPad are the wave of the future. It is exciting just thinking about the potential this new technology has to offer. But there is no replacement for the family Bible that is passed down through generations, or the signed copy of The Lightning Thief you put in the hands of a child, or your mother’s favorite book. Reading a book is an actual experience, not a virtual one. Make sure you realize the difference.