What Does It Mean To Own A Book?

from The New Yorker

Why do we buy books? Well, until very recently, there were few other ways to get them. We could go to a library, or borrow them from people we knew. Otherwise, we had to buy them. And, until recently, buying them meant buying objects, the sturdy real things, and keeping them somewhere—neatly in bookshelves, dangerously in basements, or resignedly in boxes left unpacked from the last move. E-books made ownership easier but less sure. Hold up your Kindle or your tablet or your smart phone and give it a shake; they’re in there somewhere—or else in the cloud. Technology made some purchases unnecessary; publishers couldn’t squeeze us for Milton or Dickens anymore since they’re available for free online. The Kindle has a lending program, with which you can let someone borrow one of your books for fourteen days (hurry along, borrowers of “War and Peace”). But mostly, and unlike with music or movies or digital journalism, to consume books we still buy them and then get to keep them.

The founders of Oyster, a handsomely designed new app for the iPhone and iPod Touch, are hoping that people are looking for a new way to get access to books. The app, which takes its name from a line in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” (“the world’s mine oyster,” spoken, incidentally, by a thief), currently gives users access to more than a hundred thousand titles for a monthly fee of just under ten bucks. (Netflix for books, as it’s been called.) Users tap a book to read it instantly, and can store up to ten downloads at a time to read offline. Oyster also offers recommendations based on previous selections, and allows users to share what they’ve been reading on social media. (You can also turn off the social features and read privately.) Right now you need an invitation to join, but Oyster will be expanding both how many people can use it and the number of available books, and the founders say that they plan to release a version for iPad later this fall.

More here.

7 Responses to What Does It Mean To Own A Book?

  1. Casey Scharer April 3, 2015 at 9:33 pm #

    As I have gotten older, I have learned to love reading. From experience, I have learned that reading from a hard copy of a book, rather than an e-book on an iPad or Kindle feels more comfortable and traditional to me. I enjoy the feeling of holding the book in my hand and turning the pages myself, rather than having my Kindle do it for me, though I do own a Kindle. I have begun to notice that in college that e-textbooks are becoming much cheaper to buy as opposed to a brand new hard-copy book. I would rather flip through the pages to learn rather than have difficulty scrolling up and down on a computer and experience difficulties with Internet access as well. While I understand that society is becoming more technologically davy and soon, there may not be anymore hard-back books, I personally prefer them over using any type of tablet to read.
    Oyster seems like a very interesting and convenient app to own and navigate. I agree with the article that while the app offers a variety of books, it may suffer from not offering the books that certain people are exactly looking for. As mentioned, Netflix experiences this same problem. It is a great idea for Oyster to recommend similar books to the reader, just as Netflix does, and that the price for this app is only $10. I am a big fan of Netflix, so I believe I would enjoy this app!

  2. Yisheng Ding April 4, 2015 at 10:47 pm #

    People in this world still read the book but the difference is not paper anymore. In today’s modern world , more and more people choose to read the E-book. Honestly, the high technology development change our life and habit. Many people do not willing to pay the money for one book anymore, they prefer to download the E-book or read it online straightly. In article, there is a company called “Oyster” , they designed new app for the IPhone and IPod touch. Through their app, people could easily read the E-book online, it provide over a hundred thousand titles for a monthly fee of just under ten bucks. It sounds ridiculous but it is the truth. So why we still need to own a book by purchasing ? The modern technology make our life much easier, but I feel that we lost the good feeling in the reading experience. When we open a hard copy book then read it sentence by sentence, that is enjoyable feeling. When we finish the whole reading in the end, we have great experience. This is the value for the paper book. We keep it like treasure on the bookshelves cause we love it. The digital service make our life convenience , in the meantime, we still need to remember the good feelings that those old stuff bring to us.

  3. ChristyLee K. May 30, 2015 at 5:02 pm #

    The article, “What Does It Mean To Own a Book?” caught my interest instantly. I love to read, but most of all I love to hold a book in my hand and flip the pages as I go along. Kindles and Ebooks have never appealed to me. They are astoundingly more convenient, easy to travel with and always at your fingertips, but there’s something about an actual book that I love and have never questioned. That is, until I read this article by Professor Shannon. As an avid reader, I’m aware of the cost of reading. To be blunt, it’s not cheap to be a reader. The newest books, that I’m always dying to read, only come out in hardcover around $16 – $20 each. Older books, that have finally been released in to paperbacks are still around $8 – $12 each. Reading is EXPENSIVE. My amazon cart right now is filled with my “reading wish list” of about 10 books and the total is above $90. Professor Shannon opened my eyes to a new kind of reading, one that may save me loads of money. I’m genuinely not excited to switch over to reading electronically, but to try something out that has unlimited books titles with 10 downloads available to read anytime offline, for only $9.95 a month – now that interests me. I understand that Professor Shannon’s goal in this article was not to sell Oyster to his readers; I feel he was more so trying to bring light to the demise of actual books and the pitfalls that Oyster brings to readers, but personally I think Oyster is a pretty innovative idea and I’m looking forward to giving it a try.

  4. Rhiannon K. June 2, 2015 at 4:02 pm #

    I am not really a fan of e-books. I still enjoy buying my books. I love physically walking into a bookstore and being surrounded by thousands of authors and titles I have never heard of. I do not mind paying for books because they are something that I can look at over and over again. I like having something that I can physically hold. I am the kind of person who dog-ears books so I can go back to certain pages that I love. I feel like books can be very personal. They are, in a sense, an escape from real life and I feel like digital books take away from this fantasy. I think there is something special about lending a book to a friend. It means that you want to share your experience with them. It means you know them well enough to know that they will love it just as much as you did. Being able to lend a book on a Kindle makes this process kind of detached for me.

    I love the progression of technology and seeing how far our society has become, but I know I do not plan on using Oyster. I understand what they are doing and respect it, but I think it is unnecessary and impersonal. I especially dislike the “how many minutes you have to go” feature. I think this takes the enjoyment out of reading and I think it will make the task of reading more daunting. People will just look at the number and decide not to read. A real book does not require all of the improvements that Oyster would need.

  5. Paul Roeber June 4, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

    After reading this article, I found myself both sad yet happy. Society is moving away from the printed material and into digital material. Funny though, for as much as we have a tendency to hoard material items, we are slowly letting go of arguably one of the greatest of them.

    I didn’t really understand the purpose of this article. It sounded like the author was pro book but liked the digital concept. Their focus was the application called Oyster and how it works with digital readers. It sounds like the author wanted to embrace the digital technology and see how it grows past its infancy phase. They finished up the article with coming to a conclusion that readers of the future would use a mixture of printed and digital materials to meet their needs.

    I am not a fan of digital print. I prefer the smell and feel of the paper. The feel of closing a book after you read the last page is far more rewarding then tapping on the black X at the top right of the screen. Maybe it’s my chosen career path and its technology heavy workday that turns me away from using technology in my free time. It may be because I was raised with going to the public library, searching encyclopedias for class materials, and getting books as gifts. Perhaps I am just showing my age dwelling in the past while the future swirls around me.

  6. Tirth Parikh June 4, 2015 at 6:56 pm #

    This article written in the newyorker portrays an common occurrence. Many people are shifting away from actually buying and owning a book, into obtaining a copy online. This is bound to happen I feel, and was expected. Technology has grown rapidly and has made lives so much more convenient. Many will argue, including me that digital copy of a book is far more handy and more appealing than an actual copy. With tablets popping up into the markets, new kindles, and new large screen Smartphone’s, digital copy is what consumers want. That’s why I believe that this was expected.
    I disagree with the author’s closing statement, “For now, Oyster may simply be a reminder that there is no single right way to consume books in this age of many options—it seems very likely that a hybrid model of print, e-books, and “streamed” books will serve most readers for years to come” (newyorker). I believe the future will be completely digital, or in other words be e-book. The younger and current generation prefers technology, and printed books become more of a hassle because you must carry it and have space in which you can store it. What the growing consumers prefer is something in which you can easily pop up email, browser, games, photos, and a book. Tablets provide access to all this, that is why they are so appealing. This is unfortunate, because the next generation will never actually have the feeling of owning a book. But at the same time, does owning a book significantly provide anything different then owning it digitally? That answer lies completely in the hands of the readers, and I for one think that it doesn’t make much of a difference.

  7. Keara Prystash September 29, 2019 at 4:02 pm #

    The influx and advancements in technology as rapidly changed the way most adults and young children view the world. While I was born in the late 90’s, I grew up when books and book clubs were common, as well as playing outside was a much more popular hobby than watching cartoons or playing video games after school. However, as I’ve grown up those two lesser hobbies quickly became more popular going into high school and college and I’ve noticed in general even for young kids those hobbies began to overrun the book reading activities that I found familiar as a young kid. I have always loved to read ever since I was a young kid, and even in college I find time to read books that are not always on my syllabus as, I just view it as fun and interesting. I can say however, that technology advancements and the computer have made it much easier for me to “read” or listen to texts I may need for class or for a test in shorter periods of time than it may have in the past. The fact that I can also buy a book on my phone or tablet is much easier than driving to the store and wandering through aisles. I do also think moving books to apps may help other individuals read books that may have seemed intimidating to them in the store, and may help younger children be more inclined to read versus sit playing games all day. I think the idea of the Oyster app can definitely help reach those individuals who may be more hesitant to start reading for fun. I think the concept of a monthly fee with an unlimited number of books to read may also have hardcopy book lovers jumping into online reading too as it is a much cheaper cost. Virtually, at its concept it is a Netflix or Hulu for books and I think the concept is one that can hopefully keep the book industry to stay afloat, and maybe involve hardcopy books eventually as well. I additionally think it will allow broader audiences to try reading as a hobby and help authors receive more recognition they may deserve.

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