Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why buy a $245 Summa when you can get it for 99 cents on a Kindle?

For some time to come Loome Theological Booksellers is committed to reminding discerning readers of the many advantages that physical books have over eBooks.  eBooks get most of the good press these days (and occasionally bad press) and since the format is still new and only available on status enhancing devices, the momentum of many readers is to embrace them.  Loome Theological Booksellers is not against eBooks as much as we are FOR physical books.

Today's discussion is provoked by the suggestion here that it is better to obtain your Summa for 99 cents in the electronic format rather than for $245 in the thick five volume hardcover format.  The matter is a question of what will a physical Summa do that an electronic Summa can't.

A physical Summa will:

  • Have a physical presence on a shelf (preferably) the effects of which are varied and beneficial:
    • Raise the heart and mind to God:
      • in thanksgiving for Aquinas
      • in humility for understanding of the Summa
      • in supplication for quiet time to read and study the Summa
      • in fervor to live a life of virtue
    • Insulation - a wall of books (of which the Summa would provide a substantial part) keeps in the heat and out the cold.  We know this well from years of winters in our unheated "Great Room" at the bookstore.
    • Call to knowledge - objects that are large and heavy draw our attention.  The physical Summa draws to the intellectual life by it's quiet substantial presence.
  • Endure.  A physical Summa, because it endures, can be loaned out to . . . well, others you might know who would read the Summa.  It can be borrowed.  It can also be passed on after death.  It lasts longer than it's original owner.  It can go to Christians in Africa where there aren't eReaders.  It can be smuggled into underground seminaries.  The physical Summa has freedom, the eBook Summa is chained to an eReader.
Are these attributes of a physical Summa worth $244.01?  Can our blog readers think of any more advantages to the physical Summa?

Physical books endure - that is their value.

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  1. Awesome! Now to start saving $244.01 to get all those benefits!

  2. I objected when the government started trying to get lists of library books checked out by individual patrons. With an eBook, you're paying to give that information to a corporation. What's more, you've bought a license, not a book. They can take the eBook away anytime they want, after, presumably, refunding your money. Which actually has already happened, ironically, with two titles: 1984 and Animal Farm.

    I'm sorry. Loome's is not against eBooks, but I am, for many reasons. Didn't mean to hijack the comments. I'll get my coat.

  3. A physical copy calls to me from my bookshelf. It demands my attention and reminds me that I have not yet read it but mean to. An eSumma is out of sight and out of mind....

    A physical copy can be annotated (do not hate me for this, yes, I will write in books - not ones as expensive as the Summa - I would use post-it notes with my comments for that...)

    A physical copy - especially and older, well kept one - has a beautiful, wonderful, nostalgic smell that is like nothing else.... an eSumma smalles like whatever the kids spilled on my the cover.... or leather if your kids are grown....

    A physical copy is a great conversation starter.... "I see you have Aquinas' Summa. Have you read it? What did you find most interesting? Most challenging?" etc If no one can see it, no one will ask you about it.

    I am not anti-eReader, I have one (although Rob, you make a very good point...), but there is nothing that compares to having the physical book in your hands. Holding it, smelling it.... My Nook is mainly for back-up. I have classics on there that I already have on the shelf, but if I want to go get a coffee at Caribou, it's easier to grab the little device and a pen and notebook... My general thought, though, if it's important, it's too important for an eRreader....

    That's my $0.02...

  4. A physical book is a better match for a physical reader. E-books are for angels.

  5. A physical book does not need to be charged, it does not contain glitches, it is easier on the eyes, it smells better, it feels better, it makes a room more inviting, it can be loaned to a friend much easier, it can be read in the bathtub, they can be stacked on top of one another without being damaged (I ruined a kindle doing this), it can become a very dear companion, direct sunlight barely phases it, and last but not least it does not contain the many distractions an e-reader often contains such as movies, games etc.
    I'm not totally against e-readers, I own two of them, but after using them for a couple of years now I have come to the conclusion that it's best to purchase a hard copy if at all possible. I find myself downloading an e-book, reading the first 10% and then I'm out perusing my local library for a "Friends of the Library" copy I can purchase or visiting my local bookstore or ordering a copy from amazon. So basically, that e-copy has cost more in the long run.