October 7, 2014

BY ITS COVER | Biblio-Files

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By NATALIE TSAY

While I acknowledge the convenience and economy of e-books, I have consciously resisted the slow but inevitable switch. Let it be known that I’m not advocating against them — I just don’t want to see them completely take over. For starters, I love the physical book almost more than I love reading. Apparently, this object-based rather than content-based love is called bibliophilia (though the content love almost always follows). I mean, come on; is there a better sound in the world than the turn of a crisp page? Or the fresh, unique scent forever trapped between the covers? Or being able to actually see your reading progress? To me, at least, books are beautiful. In addition, I find that I can’t concentrate as well when I’m reading from a screen (and there’s research to back up my claim, too). Technological adaptation has to happen if we want the novel to prevail; what I’m saying is that I’ll be the one stubbornly hoarding paperbacks after they’ve become barely-manufactured rarities such as records and videotapes.

However, I have incorporated technology in my reading in one way: Goodreads(.com). Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t. Maybe you were forced by your high school English teacher to make an account, or maybe you use and love it as much as I do. The site (and App) allows you to compile an easily accessible “to-read” list and post reviews, and, based on books you scored well, it gives recommendations. You can also instantly see an average rating out of five stars and read other people’s reviews — this is extremely handy when you’re on the fence about buying a book. There simply isn’t time for bad books. Members also post in discussion forums, so if you want to fangirl over/bash a certain book or character, you’ll find good company. However, my favorite feature is definitely the ability to make a “to-read” list. This is both marvelous and dangerous: you can find a book in a store, look it up and add it to your list in seconds, but it also means that your “to-read” list might grow rapidly and exponentially. I, for one, currently have 121 books on my constantly updated list. I can’t possibly hope to finish all of them anytime soon, but at least I’ll always know what to read next, right?

Despite the fact that Goodreads is technically technology, it neither destroys nor helps preserve the physical book. Things that will ensure its survival in an increasingly gadget-oriented era are used bookstores (including those online), or sites like paperbackswap.com that use a credit-based system to encourage members to send and receive books via snail mail. In a realistic vein, I believe it’s more important to keep books in circulation after their initial printing than to buy them hot off the press. So next time you’re at Barnes & Noble, look that book up on Goodreads, add it to your list and find it at a used bookstore or, if you’re the type, order it used online! I don’t currently see the book as an endangered species, but there are certainly measures we can take to prevent it from becoming one.

Natalie Tsay is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at nyt5@cornell.edu. By Its Cover appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.