Chapter 74 The Rumors of the Death of the Printed Book Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

You may have heard about Amazon’s new e-reader, the Kindle. As with the Sony Reader before it, overeager minions of technology are greatly exaggerating the rumors of the death of the printed book. The Kindle is shiny, it’s pretty, but it requires cables, batteries, and $400.

Remember, you can read a printed book for less money and less eye strain, and, even better, you don’t have to recharge it. Portability is perhaps the e-reader’s greatest claim to fame, but I will remind you that books themselves have been portable, elegant, (and wireless) since the days of Aldus Manutius (compare his 1502 Dante to the large incunabula which preceded it, for example).

I don’t spend a lot of time worrying that these e-books will replace the printed book in my lifetime. That’s because I’ve discovered an even greater threat:


Meet the Hot Wheels Mad Scatter Set, a small toy given to my boys by a neighbor today, on the feast of St. Nicholas. On the eve of this day, the neighbor has all of the children on the street (an even dozen) leave their rain boots out on the front porch over night. She then (very generously) puts oranges, nuts, chocolate coins and a small toy in each child’s boot. When the kids wake up, they think old St. Nick has visited, giving them an early taste of Christmas. It is a charming tradition, one I am enjoying all the more this year as I suspect my sons’ days of believing in Santa are numbered.

The boys awoke extra early today to look for their boots. Thoughtful Husband and I didn’t get up until about 15 minutes after the kids. They’d already dumped out the contents of the boots and found their Mad Scatter Sets. Huck had read the directions below:


In case you missed it, the idea is to use a catapult device to launch the car, which will then bounce off of whatever barriers you create for it. Look closely. See what the manufacturer suggests you use for barriers? With the added instruction, “Let ‘er rip!”

Try doing this with a Kindle!

I believe those are books in the picture. Books!!!! It’s toys like these that made me quit teaching, believing my supervision over children was needed more in my home than it was in my classroom. 😉

Fortunately, I don’t keep any Aldines in the living room, where the boys were playing. 🙂 The good stuff, the stuff for resale, is locked up or out of reach elsewhere in the house. So, I had a little fun picking the books to “let ‘er rip” against: four book club editions of later Harry Potter volumes, books with so many copies printed they will never in my lifetime be rare, and certainly not in book club format. Still, I did have some compunction about damaging books with small cars. I put the books away, and after school, Tom and Huck constructed barriers out of Lego bricks. If you get the car going just right, it will crash through and destroy the barrier, something young boys find incredibly entertaining for hours. Hence, I can write this blog post right now.

Another sign that the printed book is not dead: the younger generation, raised on electronic and battery-operated everything, keeps writing books.


If you’ll allow me the small indulgence of parental pride, Huck has written and bound his own book, Santa’s First Cookie, and inscribed it to me, his mother. Though he doesn’t much enjoy reading, he loves to draw and make up stories. I knew that my bookseller lingo was rubbing off on him when he said, “Mom, can you staple the binding and can you tell me how to spell ‘illustrated by’ and ‘written by’. It’s for my title page.”

That’s my boy. He may not be much of a reader (yet), but at the age of 7 he knows terms like binding, illustrator, and title page.

See you in the stacks!


Filed under A Family Business

3 responses to “Chapter 74 The Rumors of the Death of the Printed Book Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

  1. I don’t know. Can you sue Mattel if your books get ‘ripped’ because of their advertising?

    Probably not.

    You know that whoever thought up that picture can’t read very well.

    Congrats on Huck knowing the parts of books. He’ll need it when he takes over your business. – Unless you get ’em all sold before then.

    HAW! HAW! Like any bookseller and book lover ever lets that happen.

    P.S. Good idea with the Legos.

  2. Along with the rest of the Book selling world we were discussing the Kindle at our blog. As you point out there doesn’t seem to be a lot of concern over the book’s demise. I’ve owned a bookshop for over 3 years now (I say that to point out that I tend to notice bookish things) and I have yet to see 1 single ebook reader in person. In a city of 3 million you’d think I’d bump into one of the things.
    Bruce from the Bookshop Blog

  3. Bruce,

    Your point is a good one. I have personally seen one guy with an e-reader, about 2 years ago when I was on jury duty. He brought it with him to court every day. Other than that, I can’t think of any others.

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