I’ve been reading the hardcover UC Press Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1, and it’s just about enough to convince me to get an e-reader. At over four pounds, it makes for uncomfortable bedtime reading. It’s not the kind of book to haul around for something to read while waiting for an appointment.
And yet if I were to purchase this book (the ebook is not yet available through the library), I would want it on a shelf for my family to grab. In the years ahead, my kids will be reading Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. They would never remember that Mom was reading that thing forever on her e-reader. They will remember the day I checked it out at the library. If it’s on the shelf in the living room for the next half-dozen years, it’s size and familiarity is likely to spark their interest enough to page through it.
Even trendy twenty-something Brooklynites haven’t given up on hardcovers. “Feel it . . . it’s sturdy and formidable,” one pointed out to a reporter for The Awl. Even the young seem to recognize the impermanent nature of materials loaded onto an e-reader.
A book like Twain’s has reminded me that there still are works deserving of heft in spite of the physical inconvenience.