Hanif on Media

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Best Book of the Season: First, get plugged in?

December 16th · 2 Comments · Florida Weekly

When it comes to what to read these days I find myself simultaneously a traditionalist and a technophile, fighting a losing battle against the biggest blockbuster of this holiday season: the electronic book.

— From my latest commentary in Florida Weekly

See it here. See this week’s entire Digital Edition here. See the page here. Or just keep reading:

Can I give up the printed page? Power me up

C.B. Hanif

December 16, 2010

When it comes to what to read these days I find myself simultaneously a traditionalist and a technophile, fighting a losing battle against the biggest blockbuster of this holiday season: the electronic book.

Count me among the holdouts, a defender of the printed volume. I like the touch, the feel, the tradition, the universality of The Real Thing.

It’s a longstanding love affair. What was that one thing I desperately missed for weeks that long-ago summer, when for whatever reason I was grounded while my friends were outside playing baseball? A book.

Any book. Not the convenience and great features of the new reading contraptions that keep singing a siren’s song to this technology enthusiast.

Yes, I confess. Part of my problem is I love things electronic.

Shipwrecked on a deserted island? I easily can think of the single volume I’d want to have along. I’d rather have my laptop with wireless access to all the world’s libraries.

And I don’t know anyone else who, even back in the early ’80s, rushed over to Radio Shack to pick up that combination car stereo and CB radio.

But I’m trying hard, very hard, to remain Old School on this matter.

You might envision me as the Cowardly Lion from “The Wizard of Oz,” only this time chanting:

“I do believe in books, I do believe in books, I do, I do, I do, I do, I do!”

And by book, again, I mean the print volume.

My dissonance was only accentuated when I stopped by the bustling Barnes & Noble bookstore at Legacy Place on PGA Boulevard.

It was nice to walk in and see all the people perusing books. Real books.

Tables in and around the store’s café were filled with conversations and/or readers. In an aisle, two stacks of books had proved just the right height to provide a makeshift chair for one engaged gentleman.

It simply was a comfortable place for a reader; as cozy as any library, rivaling many a beach.

And at a display of B&N’s proprietary electronic book reader, the Nook, there was a knowledgeable, articulate and witty saleswoman, Sandra, demonstrating its numerous features by way of explaining why it is one of the hottest gifts.

In fact, even as I began crafting this column a couple of days later, a New York Times email pushed to my Blackberry smart phone was proclaiming:

“Forget those bland ‘black text on gray, no touch screen’ e-book readers. Here’s Nook Color, a reader from Barnes & Noble with a color touch screen.”

The Times’ David Pogue was saying in his “State of the Art” column (almost as much a must-read as my Florida

Weekly colleague Bradford Schmidt’s “The Mashup”), that:

“E-book readers like the Amazon Kindle may be all the rage this holiday season. But five years from now, they’ll seem as laughably primitive as the Commodore 64.”

In touting the new Nook as major progress for humanity, Pogue concluded, “Yes, five years from now, we’ll laugh at this reader, too — but not derisively. As we unwrap our all-color, alltouch screen e-book readers under the 2015 tree, we’ll remember this machine as the one that showed the way.”

It was beginning to sink in. The question no longer is what to read, but how.

A few steps away, however, at the Eissey Campus of Palm Beach State College, came yet another take.

“The misperception that people buy more e-books than printed books is widespread and the e-book publishers do nothing to dispell it,” said David Pena, director of the school’s Library Learning Resources Center.

“They want to make people think print is unhip and on the way out — much bigger profits in selling an electronic file for $9.99 than a printed book for the same price,” said the soft-spoken but always erudite Dr. Pena.

“In 2009, total U.S. book sales were about $24 billion, e-book sales accounted for only $313 million of that. Of course e-book sales are growing fast, but they’re not even 10 percent of the total.

“PBSC libraries offer over 30,000 e-books to our students, but e-book hits account for less than 10 percent of our total circulation. Academic librarians can tell you that everyone talks about e-books, but students will choose a print book over an e-book almost every time.

“E-books and e-readers are most convenient and useful for light reading — best-selling fiction and the like,” Dr. Pena said. “But a printed book is much better for intense reading and serious study requiring note taking, underlining, rereading, flipping back and forth, etc.

“PBSC libraries offer Nooks, Kindles, and iPads with preloaded e-books for checkout by students. There’s plenty of interest in the devices, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who borrows from us becomes a regular user of e-readers or goes out and buys one for themselves.”

All that warmed the heard of your correspondent. One reason I tend to hold out against being an early adopter of the new electronics is that the gadgets are coming too fast and furious.

No, my Blackberry isn’t perfect. But I don’t want an iPhone — I think?

I love my Mac laptop. But during our last Social Media Roundup session over at Store Self Storage and Wine Storage, “Branding Professor” Patrick Barbanes of Really Simple Social Media suggested I give an iPad a try.

I easily could envision his expected result. I’d be like Mikey of the old TV cereal commercial: “He likes it!”

Problem is, I don’t wanna like it. Not unless I really need it.

Still, I suspect I already know the outcome of this e-story.

It’s probably just a matter of time before Sandra has another sale.

— C.B. Hanif

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Linda Culbertson

    It’s ironic that I was reading an “electronic” version of your column, C.B.!

    I’m like you about books. I love the feel, even the smell of them. And I can’t think of a better way to spend a rainy afternoon than wandering around in a bookstore.

    But now is the time…I’m dipping my toe in the water on Christmas Day when my husband opens his new Kindle. Then, after a while, maybe I’ll try one, too.

  • Charles Keefer


    You are a goner. To admit interest in an e-reader is to go there.

    I have five of them. I have a Nook, three editions of the Kindle and an iPad and I love them all, although the Nook is under used. Oops. Six. I have the Samsung Galaxy also.

    I just bought Eliot Kleinberg’s Wierd Florida II in paperback. Since I have read more than 150 books on reading devices, I had forgotten you have to hold the pages open with a paperback. What a a pain.

    You have to have a bookmark. Which means you have to find something, like your FPL bill, to act as a bookmark when you put the thing down. I’ve missed several FPL payments over the years because they became bookmarks and I didn’t pick up the book for another month.

    No longer. Every e-reader reopens to the page to were you where. No bookmark needed.

    The Kindle is a favorite, not only because you can read it in full sunlight, but because you can read it on just about any platform. The Kindle reader is on all my Macs, on my iPad, and, of course, on all three of my Kindles.

    I can archive my books so they don’t get in the way of my current reading, and I can bring them back in seconds if I need them.

    I’m sorry, but what was it about the printed book that was so wonderful?

    With a device like a Kindle or an iPad or a Galaxy, I have 600,000 books from Amazon alone anywhere I go within range of a cell phone.

    I had a job as a librarian when I was in college. The place in which I worked has been turned into a museum. I visited it about a month ago. It is a nice museum.

    The problem we face today is how to get this technology to everyone so they can all read books. The second problem is how do we make them want to read books.

    I have found no difference in how I read books because of the technology. I tend to ingest books and think about them later. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they are ink and paper or on a reader.

    So there you go. You are just putting off a Kindle and a library of 600,000 books anywhere you stand.

    There is nothing sacred about ink on paper. That is just technology.

    The books that made us who we are and the ones who will make us who we should be are about ideas, not ink.


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