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Wednesday 5: Five Genres I Can’t Read as E-Books

September 12, 2012

I’ve had my Kindle for a little over a year, and I have learned a few things.

Format matters.

Paper matters. Especially for certain kinds of books.

1. Poetry. Poetry needs to have paper pages. This is both to facilitate browsing and dipping into poems as titles and lines catch my eye… and for the tactile sensation of the paper. I read poems on the web now and again, but don’t properly revel in it.

2. Books that turn out to be about the language, as much as the story. Let me put it this way: I shelved The Book Thief in with my poetry. Whether it’s fiction, a memoir, or food writing, if I’m lingering over specific turns of phrase, I’d prefer to do that on paper.

3. Food essays and foodie memoirs. I’ve checked a few out as e-books from the NYPL. I find myself both wanting to read them on paper, and wanting to own copies. It doesn’t matter what kind of food memoir or essay, family home cooking, chef in a busy kitchen, interesting cultural foodways. I guess I’m a glutton when it comes to well-written prose about food.

4. Textbooks and readings for class. As much as I remember fantasizing about having all my textbooks on CD-ROMs or on a laptop in high school, (seriously, I have no idea how I stayed upright with that much weight in my backpack), there’s no substitute for paper and a highlighter or several. Here we are, in the digital age, and I’m studying information science. Most of what I have to read for class and for research is available as a PDF or online. and still, I print it out. I need to get tactile with the way I take notes.

5. Cookbooks. As often as I Google for recipes, instead of consulting the cookbooks on my shelf, the idea a actually cooking from an e-reader strikes me as very weird. The size of my laptop means that I don’t have counter space for it in the kitchen, so it sits on the table just across the threshold. A Kindle is small enough to take into the kitchen, but that threshold is a bigger concept to cross. Especially given the idea of getting sauce and flour stains on the device. My current system is inefficient, I realize, but I’m willing to deal with it.

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