Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Top Ten Things I Love About Print Books

by Susan McBride

I thought of writing about my “process,” but I’m right in the midst of using that process to muddle through the last bit of a manuscript…and I’m realizing more and more that I don’t understand at all what my process is. It’s kind of a mystery, or maybe an enigma. Or possibly a great Black Hole full of galaxies that no one has glimpsed.

So instead, I figured I’d write about why I love books. You know, the old-fashioned kind with covers and pages that flap in the breeze. I’ll do it like David Letterman’s Top Ten countdown, just to create a little suspense (a very little).

Okay (ahem!), here are my Top Ten Things I Love About Print Books:

10. They are user friendly, and I’m too old to learn about new-fangled gadgets when I can barely operate my antiquated cell phone that doesn’t even take pictures or text.

9. They make great coasters in a pinch. I highly doubt that e-readers come equipped with an optional “coaster cover.”

8. Have you ever swatted a fly with an e-reader? I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t hold up.

7. They fit so well into bookshelves, and I love to see all the colors of the spines lined up (like height together with like height, of course—my husband doesn’t call me “Monk” for nothing).

6. I grew up with them. They are like dear old friends. I still have a copy of JOHNNY TREMAIN, which was one of my favorite books in grade school. I have such fond memories of ordering from the Scholastic Book Club and doing reading contests at school, like the one where every kid got a paper kite with his/her name on it stuck to the library walls and a bow was added on the tail for each book read in a certain time frame—I still have that kite!

5. It gives me something to stick bookmarks in, and I have a lovely collection. My favorite has this line on it: “I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once.” It’s got a pink tail that my cats have chewed to smithereens. You can’t stick bookmarks in e-readers so far as I’m aware. With the economy the way it is, I’d really like to keep the bookmark makers in business, too.

4. The smell of a brand-new book. It’s like Christmas everyday. I used to stick my nose between the pages and take a big sniff. I don’t do that anymore (well, not often). But there’s just something about that crisp scent. It makes me happy.

3. People can see what I’m reading, and I can see what they’re reading. Like, when I’m in a doctor’s office waiting room or on an airplane. It starts conversations. It’s a great way of judging whether you’d even want to converse with someone. Plus I can show off books by friends that I’d love more readers to discover.

2. It gives me an excuse to hang out at bookstores. OMG. What bibliophile doesn't get a tingle up her spine walking through the door of a store that sports shelf after glorious shelf crammed with books? I've found some amazing titles on impulse buys (like, GARDEN SPELLS by Sarah Addison Allen while I was at Main Street Books in St. Charles, which got me hooked on all SAA's novels, and THE FRENCH GARDENER by Santa Montefiore, which I picked up at Puddn' Head Books because of its gorgeous cover and adored so I've since bought another).

And the Number One Thing I Love About Print Books….

1. I still get a HUGE thrill when I’ve got a new book coming out, and a box of them arrives in the mail via my friendly UPS man. I do a happy dance. I stack them up. I look at the front cover then at the back then at the front cover again. I don’t think I’d ever feel the same way about getting a copy on an e-reader.

So what about you guys? Are you a print book fan or an e-reader aficionado?

Susan McBride is the author of LITTLE BLACK DRESS (William Morrow Paperbacks, August 23, 2011) called "a lovely and entertaining journey into the magical side of things" by NYT bestselling author Sarah Addison Allen. Susan's other books include THE COUGAR CLUB, named a Target Bookmarked Breakout Title and a Midwest Booksellers' "Midwest Connections Pick," as well as the award-winning Debutante Dropout Mysteries (HC/Avon) and The Debs young adult books (Random House/Delacorte). For more scoop, visit SusanMcBride.com.


  1. I'm a fan of print, for quite a few of the reasons you listed. I have read e-books and will probably read more in the future. But here's one you didn't list: as e-readers change and the batteries die, and the technologies are updated, I can ALWAYS read a print book.

  2. I love the look, smell and feel of a print book. I'm highly motivated my the cover, and the blurb on the inside cover or elsewhere. I do have an e-reader, and I like it, it's easy to carry along, easy to load up and take on vacation.
    I doubt I ever give up print books, my shelves are also full of them, and there is much to be said for a classic, nothing like a print book.

  3. Oh, Susan, I have that very same Ashleigh Brilliant bookmark and love it ;).

    I just think print books are beautiful. I like holding them, flipping through them, admiring their covers and (if they have them) internal illustrations. Much as I appreciate the advantages of ebooks and am in awe of the new technology, I'll never stop loving my paper books, too...

  4. Susan, you are a gal after my own heart. I love print books for all of the same reasons. I don't own an e-reader and have enough books "stock piled" to last the rest of my life, if they were to become obsolete. My childhood memories are filled with books; my first trip to the library, the first book I purchased with my own money, my first time climbing aboard a Book Mobile, my first time reading Stuart Little and Gone With The Wind....so many wonderful memories are forever in my mind, thanks to paper books.

  5. I have 2 e-readers plus an iPad and I prefer print books. There's nothing like the feel of the pages in my hands.

  6. Megan, good point! And I've been reading more and more about how e-book readers tap into information about you and how books you've bought can simply vanish from your e-reader if the vendor decides to pull it or censor it for some reason. So Big Brother-esque! I've even remarked to my software engineer hubby, "What if satelites crash"--or however that works--"and all technology comes to a stand-still. I can still read my print books!" ;-)

    Anita, I so understand the convenience of e-readers and carrying around hundreds (or thousands) of books on one small device. That is an incredible thing. But I'm with you that nothing will ever replace the smell or feel of a traditional book in hand. So I think having both is a brilliant idea!

    Marilyn, I love that you have that bookmark, too! We are sisters at heart, I tell you. :-)

    Jillian, isn't it lovely, the memories we associate with books? I have so many of those, too. And I also have enough books stockpiled to last for years and years! It's very comforting, isn't it?

    BermudaOnion/Kathy, I had a feeling you'd have an e-reader or two! I'll bet it's very helpful when you're reading books for pleasure and for review. But I'm really glad to hear you're a fan of print books, too. I had a feeling that'd be the case!

  7. Oh, Susan, you nailed it! I LOVED those Scholastic Book fliers--I spent so much time looking at all the descriptions and picking out which ones to order.

    Anna Quindlen has one of the best comments about books--something along the lines of, "Without books and bookshelves, I don't know how I'd decorate my house."

    Amen, Sister--I'll never stop buying/reading/loving books . . .

  8. I knew before I started reading that I'd love your post, Susan! I think you're exactly right, everything from books to being great coasters to the certain and untimely demise of pretty bookmarks! It was simply an awesome post b/c it made me smile!

  9. You said everything I've wanted to say since Christmas. That's when I received my Kindle. I adored it on Xmas day. Some time afterward I wandered back to my book shelves. I luv "real" books. Your article is perfect. What can replace holding a "real" book. I miss book covers too. I like this part of your article.

    "I grew up with them. They are like dear old friends."

    I grew up with books too. Can't remember not having a library card. Luved reading "books" to my mom. We read "The Incredible Journey" together.

    Thanks for this lovely bit of nostalgia.

  10. This is a great post, especially after the sad, sad news about Borders. I love print books for all the above reasons and because I love to read in the tub.

  11. Great points. And, yes, Karin it is timely with the sad news about Borders. While I would like to think it would give indies an edge, those darlings are struggling, too. I'd love to see the latest numbers on WHERE people buy their print books. I think the greater majority buy them online, used and new.
    Another reason I love print books is to write in them - only the non-fiction ones I'm using for research and guidance, of course!

  12. I love print still. I need to write in my books and get them signed by the authors I enjoy.

  13. I'm for print! I still love to see the spines all lined up on my shelf. I do have an e reader and it's not to say I'm a against it. But I prefer print. I can promise you none of my books end up as coasters!

  14. The historian in me is calling out. Books may not be forever, but they last a gosh-darned long time. We have books that are more than a thousand years old. What's the likelihood that our 2011 technology will be here in 3011?

  15. Wow, I am so happy to see all the print book love!

    Fedora (Ms. D): I knew you'd be on the side of print books! Yeah, that's what I keep thinking. Look at the books that have lasted through history. Technology will forever change. I can't imagine a day when there aren't real-live books. I think it's great to have additional formats to augment print books (as we always have, like with large print, audio, etc.). But it would be a shame if traditional books ever went away completely. We would lose such a vast part of ourselves.

    Margaret, I love seeing all the spines lined up, too! (And my coaster comment is tongue-in-cheek, unless it's a really old, battered book!)

    Evelyn, it warms my heart to hear you say that!

    Malena, I am heartbroken about Borders, too. I was just in my neighborhood Borders on Tuesday, as a matter of fact, talking to the wonderful booksellers there about what was going to happen. It's a great loss, and it has more to do with bad business management than anything. Shelby at Borders even said to me, "It's too bad they didn't ask us if certain things were good ideas." Sigh.

    Karin: My favorite thing is when someone brings a book to sign and it's all puffed out because they dropped it in the tub! Do they make water proof e-readers yet? (Just curious!)

    Tea, thanks for your wonderful comments! It's amazing the history we have with our books (and the great memories). I don't think any technology can replace that.

    Laura, you're so sweet! You always make me smile with your posts, so it's only fair I could make you smile with one of mine! :-)

    Judy, ah, Scholastic Book Club! I used to be in a tizzy on days they passed out the flyers and I got to order new books. So much fun! (Do they still do that in schools?) Love that Anna Quindlen quote! So so true!

  16. I love ALL of these reasons! Great post, Susan.

  17. I'm a print fan. There is nothing I love more than walking into a bookstore and seeing all the books! I'm not one of those women who needs 100 pairs of shoes. If I have the money to go shopping, I think of all the new books I can buy. I can still remember the smell of the book Madeline when it was my first book checked out from the library. I still enjoy the smell of cracking open a new book. I am not a big traveler, maybe if I was I could see the allure of a Kindle or Nook, less books to carry with you but give me a print book anyday.

  18. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Print books! I have an e-reader but it's just not the same. I can see both sides, but I love my books. I love holding them, seeing them on my shelves and having them signed by authors! I don't want everything in my life to be digital... Books are my blast to the past... the one thing that has always remained constant since printing began. I don't want it to be digital. I love my library!

  19. Mary, I can see the allure of an e-reader to a constant traveler as well. But I'm with you: nothing beats the feel of an actual book in your hands! It's something special.

    Tiffany, ditto! :-)

  20. Susan, I'm with you on the smell of books. When I was writing on the OU library's sixth floor behind stacks of musty books, I loved walking through the rows of books and smelling the old paper smell as well as inhaling it all day as I worked.

  21. I love print books. I still have my favorite Bobbsey Twins books, my daughter has her Dr.Seuss Books that her son is now enjoying and my favorite author books fill my bookcases. How do we hand down these lovely treasures if they are on an e-reader that will soon be obsolete. (I can no longer play my favorite Anne Murray or Billy Joel 8-track) I had a dad come in the other day to buy his son some of our hard back Hardy Boys books. Evidently his son cracked the screen on his second e-reader (the first one he dropped in the pool). Now he is reading print books which he can pass down to his children.

  22. Yes yes and yes! What a brilliant idea for a blog entry, Susan. LOOOVE print books and agree with all your reasons! xo

  23. Cindy, I remember studying in the stacks during college, and I loved being buried behind/between walls of books (and, yes, breathing in the smell of them, new and old!). It was one of my favorite places. So I can see why writing in the OU stacks worked so well for you!

    Kathy R., what a great story! I hope his son enjoys those hardback Hardy Boys books and does pass them down to his own kids someday! I still have my yellow-spined Nancy Drews from the '70s! They are treasures, indeed.

    Thanks, Ms. Ellen! :-)