Much of the controversy over electronic books has died down since Amazon introduced its Kindle in 2007. Back then e-book and paper proponents went back and forth on items such as price, the ability to withstand usage, battery life, weight, and the ability to carry one book versus hundreds at a time. Each has its pros and cons.
Having used both for years I imagine I am like most readers. For some reading the e-book is perfect; but at other times I want to feel the heft and scribble in the margins.
As handy as e-books are there’s still one thing they have not, and I would argue they cannot, master. C. S. Lewis mentions it in a letter to a Laurence Harwood dated December 29, 1948. After admitting that as a boy he disliked the writings of Charles Dickens (they scared him), Lewis comments on one particular edition of The Pickwick Papers he remembers from his youth,
“The very smell of that edition (you have noticed that every book has its peculiar smell: in fact the smell of some books, next to that of new shoes, is one of the best smells there is, I think)—the very smell of that edition had a sort of horror about it.”1
Most of us are familiar with the new car smell. It’s still around. So is the new shoes smell. Let’s hope we never see a generation unfamiliar with the new book smell.
- Walter Hooper, ed., The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Books, Broadcasts, and the War 1931-1949, Vol. II (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004), 898.