Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Today I welcome, as a guest author, Carole Kitchel Bellew, Managing Director of Bunker Hill Publishing, whose catalog of thoughtful, well-made books resides in Piermont, New Hampshire, and at She wrote this appreciation for that web site.

In my opinion, a, e-book on an e-reader is like eating canned vegetables: lacking in nutrients. Well, maybe not exactly, but all of these e-reader/e-book gizmos excite me just as much as tinned legumes do, and I have avoided consuming them most of my life. I’ve always wondered: do movies and television replace live theater? Does having a good workout on your Nintendo Wii™ replace playing a game of outdoor tennis? Does tuning into an iPod replace a live concert? Will new technologies overwrite those on which they are based? I don’t think so, and I truly believe they never will.

Books, especially the kind we produce here at Bunker Hill Publishing, will always have an appreciative audience; the enjoyment of them goes way beyond the tracking of one’s eyes back and forth across the image of a page on a screen. Holding a book brings a rush to the senses, from the weight of it in your hands to feel of the spine to the hot-off-the-press smell of a fresh hardcover. I cannot imagine settling down in my well-used reading spot and touch-screening to the first page of my favorite novel.

Holding a book brings a rush to the senses, from the weight of it in your hands to feel of the spine to the hot-off-the-press smell of a fresh hardcover.

If anything, though, I think the quality of physical books is actually going to get better as e-books advance. The increased revenue e-books are already bringing to publishers will give them the ability to produce higher-end books that arguably require printing: Photo collections, illustrated volumes, and children’s literature. I think most of our readers are looking for more than just “something to read.” They want the pleasure of owning a beautiful book, to be able to go back to it time and time again and to feel that it is something to be valued and collected.

For the sake of convenience and probably instant gratification, we have evolved. We have put food in cans, we have put performances in cans, and now we are putting books in cans. But that doesn’t mean the end of making things from scratch, of home-cooked meals, live music, and paper-and-binding publications. In some years we may be reading the collected emails of Jonathan Franzen instead of the letters of Virginia Woolf, but no amount of pixilated Helvetica Regular can replace the fine, emotive marks of a fountain pen. In short, we can still enjoy taking the time and effort to experience the “real” —for lack of a better word— thing, and some of us will never stop.

This piece was first posted at, and is used with the author's permission.


Andrea said...

As a newspaper employee who has wanted to be one since I was age three, I can certainly appreciate the printed word. I love the smell of the paper and ink, and the sound of rumpling the pages over a hot breakfast. Watching the press run is still a thrill after ten years in my position. But, ultimately I value the information contained in the paper and not the format. The ideas define the newspaper, not the paper and ink. Unless a book is visual and contains photos, I don't think using an e-reader takes anything away from the experience. If anything, the new features (like the dictionary) add something a physical book cannot offer.

Jeffrey Willius said...

Hey Andrea -- I can appreciate that point of view. Seems to parallel, in a way, the difference between being goal oriented and process oriented.
I must say that, after pointing all you enjoy about the ink-on-paper experience, I don't see how you can say that not having those sensations doesn't take anything away. Maybe Ms. Bellew will want to add something.

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