Books you have to meet in person?
July 2, 2012 11:40 PM   Subscribe

What are some books you have to meet in person? Books an e-reader cannot do justice?

I recently got an e-reader, and I love it to pieces. I'm reading more than ever, and can't go back - turning pages suddenly seems like far too much to ask.

But then there are books like House of Leaves and Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout, which apparently have to be held and handled and looked at to be experienced properly. Very tempting. So I'd like to know, please: What other books are like this? Thank you, MetaFilter!
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Try to get your hands on a hardcover copy of The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia.

After House of Leaves, Mark Z Danielewski wrote Only Revolutions, which is formatted in a way that I can't see how it would work in e-book form.
posted by dogwalker at 11:47 PM on July 2, 2012

Best answer: The Griffin and Sabine books are the first books that come to my mind. That series is all about physically interacting and discovering with the books.
posted by chiefthe at 12:26 AM on July 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

Stuff with serious footnotes, and especially endnotes, doesn't work on e-readers. You are basically reading in two places semi-simultaneously by keeping two bookmarks. So a book like Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire (which is structured as a set of increasingly imaginative annotations to a poem) would be a huge pain. Also anything with illustrations/maps that span a spread of two pages.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 12:28 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer. Foer took another novel and cut into its pages, to remove some of the original text and to allow some text on pages further in to be shown through the cuts. (A photo of the book's inside from the Amazon page.)
posted by Silly Ashles at 1:00 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, so you can flip back and forth.
Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavić.
The Griffin and Sabine books, definitely.
Anything by Terry Pratchett, with all the lovely footnotes and references.
posted by flex at 2:18 AM on July 3, 2012

Stuff with serious footnotes, and especially endnotes, doesn't work on e-readers. You are basically reading in two places semi-simultaneously by keeping two bookmarks. So a book like Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire (which is structured as a set of increasingly imaginative annotations to a poem) would be a huge pain. Also anything with illustrations/maps that span a spread of two pages.

Counterpoint: I'm currently reading Pale Fire on my kindle. The version I downloaded includes hyperlinks between the poem and Kinbote's commentary, making the speed and convenience of the back-and-forth on par with a physical book. I've read footnote-heavy tomes on my Kindle before, and I didn't find them particularly irritating.
posted by Rinku at 2:21 AM on July 3, 2012

Infinite Jest. Trying to read it on Kindle and flipping back and forth to endnotes electronically was difficult -- and I kept skipping them inadvertently.
posted by Cocodrillo at 2:31 AM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: Most of the books mentioned in this previous question would fit your criteria.
posted by vacapinta at 2:53 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Unfortunates by B.S. Johnson.
posted by hydatius at 2:54 AM on July 3, 2012

I was reading some Jen Lancaster a while ago, which relies heavily on footnotes - unreadable on a Kindle. Jasper Fforde, I hear, is similar - there is a sequence where the characters communicate using footnotes.

Also, obvious answer, but craft/instructional books. You really need to see the pictures.
posted by mippy at 3:00 AM on July 3, 2012

War and Peace is, I believe, 2% French. In a 1300 page book that's 26 pages-worth. As footnotes it's slightly tedious to constantly be glancing down at the bottom of the page to see what a word or phrase means, but on a kindle it would be unbearable to be navigating the hyperlinks with the little 5 way controller - sometimes 3-5 times per page.
posted by pdq at 3:08 AM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things - - is a recyclable book on the topic of recycling.

Of course, reading it as an e-book almost makes it's point moot, though in it's favor the actual book is waterproof.
posted by fairmettle at 3:54 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Complete Far Side
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:23 AM on July 3, 2012

Not being jokey, but for many of the reasons adult books might be this way (you do something with the paper), many children's books fall in this category: Books to improve fine motor skills (the ones with buttons and other things to manipulate), coloring books and activity books.
posted by Houstonian at 5:49 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Any large art or photography book collecting work you find beautiful.
posted by mediareport at 6:11 AM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss is an accordion-style book that tells an interconnected love story. Reading it one way is from the man's perspective and the reverse is from the woman's. I imagine the experience could be replicated on an e-reader (it's kind of an arbitrary decision which story you want to read first), but I feel like something would invariably be lost.

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larson is an oversized novel full of footnotes, asides, and illustrations that I just can't see an e-reader handling adequately.
posted by xenization at 6:14 AM on July 3, 2012

Many poetry books are better experienced in paper, as e-book formatting doesn't always allow for the unusual spacing, line placement, etc. that makes the poem flow right.

Cherie Priest's Boneshaker (at least the first edition) was printed in brown ink, impossible to replicate on an e-reader and it lent a wonderful steampunk quality to the paperback.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:22 AM on July 3, 2012

The footnotes thing depends on the e-reader type. If it's a touch screen, such as a Kindle fire or iPad, the footnote consists of touching the number, reading the footnote, and hitting the back button. I read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell on my iPad, and that's probably the most footnote-intensive work I've ever seen, and I include Pratchett on that list.

On the other hand, Jasper Fforde's books work with fonts, sizes, illustrations, and page placement as part of the story, so those should be read in physical form.
posted by nickhb at 6:34 AM on July 3, 2012

Pretty much anything with a lot of illustrations, like maps or photos. They're just too small to show clearly on ereaders.
posted by easily confused at 6:49 AM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar. Its chapters need to be read in a non-sequential order.

Other people have mentioned children's books in general, but the most un-kindlish of them is probably Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt — in a e-book, you couldn't smell the flowers or feel daddy's scratchy skin!!
posted by ubiquity at 7:26 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

And of course you wouldn't be able to eponymously pat the bunny.
posted by ubiquity at 7:27 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've got a kindle 3 that I love. However, one thing that does irritate me is how long it takes to navigate to footnotes, read them, and get back to the text. Pratchett books have been some of the most annoying in this regard.

I also tried to read a couple of math/science books that are supposed to have figures in them. I'm assuming it's the publishers fault, but it makes the books unreadable when you can't see the figures they are referencing in the text.
posted by Quack at 8:39 AM on July 3, 2012

Any suggestions about books with illustrations/maps not working well for ebooks needs a huge caveat. That is, many of time these elements are only worse in the ebook because the publisher did a terrible job. On current eink screens (Kindle) it's legitimately too low resolution/contrast for many maps, but that will change, and is already not a technical issue on something like a tablet.
posted by Patbon at 9:09 AM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: Alice in Wonderland, illustrated by Raplh Steadman.

The 13 1/2 Lives of BlueBear by Walter Moers

In both, the illustrations flow around and interact with the text beautifully.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 10:37 AM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: Seconding the original, hardcover version of Salvador Plascencia's People of Paper.
The Codex Seraphinianus - I have a physical version, and a pdf, and the pdf does not convey any of the impressiveness and only a small fraction of the wonderment of the physical copy.
posted by taltalim at 12:25 PM on July 3, 2012

anything by Edward Tufte
posted by colin_l at 1:07 PM on July 3, 2012

Best answer: I disagree about Infinite Jest. I read it on my Kindle and being able to skip back and forth between text and footnotes was amazing. As were inline definitions and being able to search for things like character names.

To answer your question, I'd nominate The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time because of lots of pictures and non-typically aligned text.

I have also heard that the dead tree versions of Ready Player One contain an easter egg that is unavailable to ebook readers.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:15 PM on July 3, 2012

Anything Discworld by Terry Prathchett. I have yet to meet any e-reading device that can properly handle footnotes. And the footnote jokes are and integral part of nearly all the Discworld novels.

In my experinece Even books in pdf format render footnotes as teeny tiny.

I really want technology to just hurry up and give me a more book like ereading device.
posted by Faintdreams at 4:03 PM on July 3, 2012

Academic books are footnote-heavy and (should be) index-heavy too; I don't know how well academic presses are adapting their ebook texts to make them as functional as a paper book. If you have a book that also contains a lot of images, especially colour images, that have been carefully integrated into the text--like this one*--then an ebook version will probably fall short on several counts. On the other hand, a very petite friend of mine was extremely grateful that the Kindle was invented before she finished her PhD: it saved her from lugging around a sack of heavy history books, and made reading them on trains a lot easier.

I imagine that Cent mille milliards de poèmes wouldn't really work either.

*This is a friend-link, and the friend in question was worrying just today that the people who've downloaded the Kindle version aren't getting a good deal.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 2:23 PM on July 4, 2012

WG Sebald's books, with their embedded photographs, might fit into this category. Maybe Tristram Shandy, too.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 3:38 PM on July 4, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you for your help, everyone! Now I can finally show my face at my favourite bookstore again. Also, I thought of another book that probably fits in this category: Austin Kleon's collection of poems Newspaper Blackout.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 6:07 PM on July 4, 2012

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