Book or eReader?

Saturday 1488 21st January 2012

I didn’t set foot outside the house today, partly because it was raining most of the day but also because I hadn’t felt particularly well all week and that, coupled with a very busy and stressful working week, meant that the house was in a bit of a mess!  Housework is soooo dull ( for another post? )

Naturally, as I always do, I got sidetracked!  I decided I would look at my books. “Look at her books? Doesn’t she mean read books?” I can hear you thinking “what is she on about now?”

Well you see I collect books, 1st Editions or Limited Editions mostly and I have some really beautiful ones.  They range from Rupert Bear to Wisdens, Sebastion Faulks, to James Joyce, Ted Hughes to Edward Gorey, to name but a few.. Some are very old, some more modern editions. Some are signed by the author or illustrator or both. Some are that most sumptuous of book made by Private Presses from beautiful paper with gorgeous dustjackets and decorative endpapers.

I thought I would share some of them with you to show you what I love about books as works of art, but first…

When I was looking at them it got me thinking about eBook readers. When the eBook reader ( carefully avoiding advertising here 🙂 )  first came out I remember thinking. Oh, for goodness sake. Do we have to have electronic everything. What’s wrong with paper books.  I like to sit on a train and surreptitiously look at the cover of the books people are reading to see what the book is. Not possible if they’re reading a kindle…grrrr

Then I got worried that people would stop buying paper books and even more worried that publishers, especially small publishing houses would stop producing limited edition beautiful books.  It felt to me like an attack on our cultural soul.  

Also, I imagine it will be easy to pirate eBooks and this will surely affect profits for publishers and payments for authors, don’t you think?

I haven’t bought an eBook reader and have no particular desire to do so, as of this moment, but then I am a bit of a luddite where some technology is concerned and tend not to follow the next electronic craze…


I can see how useful an eBook reader could be. It’s lightweight, doesn’t take up much room and probably best of all, if your eyesight is failing, you can make the font bigger so it’s easier to read. Hmmmm I’m starting to warm to the idea!

 I can see too that it would be great if students didn’t have to carry around loads of heavy books but could have them all stored and updated on an eReader; probably less expensive too.


They could get stolen or lost so that all your books are lost too, break or run out of battery just when you get to the interesting bit because you forgot to charge it.

So will the paper book survive the electronic onslaught?

For most fiction especially airport type blockbuster popular fiction sadly I think the eReader will have ( has had) an enormous  impact, but just as television didn’t kill the radio ( although it was widely thought that it would ) and the Internet didn’t kill TV ( though it was widely thought that it would ! ) I don’t think the eReader will finish off the paper book altogether though it has and will severely reduce the numbers produced.  It will also reduce the numbers of trees planted and then cut down to produce paper. Is that a good thing?

It’s a matter of aesthetics and the pull of history. There will always be those of us who love the feel , the weight,  the smell, the beauty of a paper book; the sharing of a physical book with a friend ( you can hardly lend an eBook! Actually legally  I don’t think you can though you can lend an eReader loaded with a book? ) . Large illustrated books too do not do well on eReaders

I think there will always be a market for beautifully produced limited edition books which will be works of art but these are likely to be very expensive so only available to collectors or the very rich. Mind you maybe that was always the way? 

So back to my books…below are some photos to give you an idea of why I love the paper book in all it’s glory. Ohhh it was hard to choose which ones to show you!

Click on any picture for a better look.

1st up the Pennyroyal editions of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, designed and illustrated by Barry Moser  with one of the illustrations below them of Tweedledum and Tweedledee.




Next up The Book of Ruth one of only a 1000 copies published by Bobbs-Merrill in America with the most sumptuous paper and glorious typeface.




Next is a copy DH Lawrence Love Among The Haystacks published by the Nonesuch Press. Very plain dustjacket but lovely book underneath and a limited edition..



I could be here all day adding books but I think I should probably be doing other things!  So I will just add a few more random photos to illustrate my love of the paper version of books which will always stay with me – an eReader could never replace that! 





 Look below at the page edges and yellow/ green cover of the little book above called Latterday Symphony – A thing of Beauty is indeed a joy forever.


If you love books too buy them or lose them !


Ps take a look at Photomania too 🙂

32 comments on “Book or eReader?

  1. […] have shared my deep love of the environment, poetry , books,  sculpture,  art  ( warning on that one) and most of all photography; there have been well over […]

  2. KPdesign says:

    Keep the books alive!!! There is NO replacement for the real thing! 🙂

  3. Nandini says:

    A book, always. E-reading – just a last resort. 🙂 Great post.

  4. munchow says:

    I know exactly what you mean: Look at my books. Even though I don’t collect first edition. I can see the usefulness of eBooks. But I would never stop getting the real thing. That is still a book for me. Thanks for showing the great editions of books.

  5. Oooh I love your collection. ❤

    I myself love the smell of books. I love the smell of newly printed books. I love the smell of musty, yellow-paged old books.

    But as much as I love physical books, I'm leaning toward getting an e-reader. You mentioned the possibility of the e-reader getting stolen, but you can always have a back-up of your books in a computer or hard drive.

    I also love the convenience of having one device for thousands of books. But what really draws me in is the amount of money I get to save. There are so many public domain novels that I haven't read — classics that demand my attention. I would love to be able to read them for free instead of buying them. 🙂

    But of course, the choice lies on the readers themselves. There's no right or wrong argument for or against e-readers, I think.

    • hellenjc says:

      Thanks for such a great response BS.. I’m sure you could back up but it is illegal to make copies of an eBook I believe!
      and I suppose with the classics there wouldn’t be a prob with an author missing out on royalties 😉

  6. Wow Helen, those are beautiful, beautiful books. Working as I do in a museum of childrens literature, a place that celebrates the art of books, this is a constant topic of discusssion. e Readers have their place for all the reasons people have mentioned but research has shown that we love to own something physical, tangible. It’s easy to download music yet sales of vinyl records are on the increase because of the artwork, the sound quality and most important the “collection”. I believe books are here to stay, certainly in my house.

    • hellenjc says:

      Well sometime girl you’ll have to get in that Campervan of yours and come down to Cambridge to visit…I’ll show you more of my lovely books 🙂
      I took a look at where you work Ziggy and I LOVE it !! 🙂

  7. You have some treasures in those books! Great photos. And I agree, there is just something about books. I get tired of being on the computer, and it’s nice to have something like a book or a newspaper in my hands/reading in bed, etc. Great post!

  8. Tilly Bud says:

    Lovely collection.

    I see your point about eReaders, and I had my doubts for a while, but space is so limited in my house that my Kindle is a real blessing. I can now read all the books I have to store in the loft! And I’m loving it.

  9. Jackie Paulson says:

    I have to say that I did not give in to the New Tv’s or the new ebooks, readers or Kindles. I am just going to stay old fashioned for now as a 45 year old who grew up with books and loves to read them. I love to feel them. I love the smell. Oh and to highlight in them. My treasure is my books. I am glad it is out for others. Bravo for technology.

  10. Caroline Warnes says:

    Like you I love books both to own and to read (although I do not own any that are anywhere near as special as yours). However I am also slightly tempted by the Kindle, especially for travelling as much of my baggage allowance is usually taken up by books (holidays are my favourite reading times). I would also love to have all my behaviour text books in electronic form as this would allow me to search through them all simultaneously, rather than building them into huge unstable piles when I am researching something 🙂 However I would be dreadfully upset if “real” books did start to vanish, and this is the main reason I haven’t bought an e-reader so far.

    • hellenjc says:

      I like them just to look at too, Caroline..A kindle would be fab for your work though if you could get all the books you needed on it.. I started collecting books when I had a bit of money that I wanted to invest and thought I love books and they can be an investment too so the best of both worlds :)…except there would have to be a life or death crisis before I’d part with them!

  11. winsomebella says:

    Thank you for the glimpse of your fine library 🙂

  12. mary haren says:

    i really enjoyed your blog this week Helen. I bought a kindle this christmas, but not for myself. I bought it for Noel and had a good look at it before i wrapped it up because i have been tempted to get one. We go away twice a year now for a week each time. Although i always have a book on the go at home my life is so busy with work, grandchildren and my music that it could take me a few weeks to finish a book. But on my weeks holiday all i do is read. I really save all the good books that have been recommended to me and i would bring about 5 books with me and finish them all. I met a man on a long flight about 4 years ago who was reading the first e-reader i ever saw. He told me he had downloaded about 30 books on it for his annual holiday and had started about 12 of them but because he has so much choice he finished none. That put me off.
    I am in the local book club which is held in the library. The members there recommend good books to me. I only want a good story. I am not interested in being educated, enlightened, converted or made politically aware. I only want to be entertained at my age. I love to pass on a good book to my mother, sisters and friends. The photos of your books are great. Keep buying books…..they will never be replaced.

    • hellenjc says:

      Glad you enjoyed it Mary.. It can be hard to resist new technology can’t it, especially as it is thrust in our faces wherever we go..I’m sure we’ll give in to one when our eyesight starts to go!!

  13. Megan Madill says:

    I quite agree with your argument. Industry is always afraid of change and I don’t think they give us humans enough credit – sure, we like convenience, but we’re not about to give up on art. I asked for a Kindle for Christmas last year because I’m studying abroad and the fewer books in my luggage, the better! I have found it to be really helpful for reading my French newspaper on the tram in the morning – the paper broadsheet gets in everyone’s way, it’s far too rustly, and it takes up way too much room in my bag. Plus, the eReader has built-in dictionaries which allow you to mouse-over any word and it’ll give you a definition – which is very helpful if you’re reading a French newspaper, I can tell you!

    I personally love book books. I took a bookbinding class back in Edinburgh last year and was absolutely enthralled by the art of binding books. I’ll never give up on the dream my boyfriend and I share – of having a library in our house with a sliding ladder and green leather armchairs – but for now, the Kindle is too handy and portable not to come with me to class every day!

    Those books are absolutely beautiful; you should be very proud of your collection. I’m sure you already are 🙂

    • hellenjc says:

      Thank you Megan.. lovely that you want and use both..let’s hope that’s the way forward. I envy you the bookbinding course – great experience to have..

  14. Great contrasts between the “real” books and e-readers. Love ’em all, plus audiobooks.

  15. scillagrace says:

    As a Luddite and as Scholar & Poet Books, you know my preferences, but I think it’s a big enough world to share words in all kinds of media without endangering any one kind. Thanks for sharing your pride & joy!

    • hellenjc says:

      I definitely knoew which you would prefer Scilla ! Unfortunately statistics show that paper book buying is seriously declining. Amazon has already said that it sells more ebooks than paper books now..

  16. Pranav Lal says:

    I am biased towards eReaders since I have terrible memories of lugging Braille books to school. However, I do see the value of paper for books that contain pictures. Small screens and pictures are not quite there yet. As for the batteries issue, it is a matter of lifestyle. You get

  17. Britta-Karin Engberg says:

    Lovely books you showed us!

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