Saturday, October 1, 2011

A few thoughts on books, cookbooks and their future



A selection of the Tuscan Foodie's cookbooks library
Loving books and loving reading are two separate pleasures. They are related, but they are not identical. You may love reading, but have no passion whatsoever for the book as a physical object. In this case, you probably borrow a lot of books from the public library, buy mass market editions, and/or use your ebook reader a lot. But you may also be one of those that just love books as objects: paying for your new purchase, you may be dreaming of that moment in which you will be on your own in your living room, and you will be able to open your new book and smell it, touch it, caress it, plunge into it with all your senses. You may even hunt for First Editions of your favorite writers, and obsess because you don't have the original book jacket...

And then there are the worst cases: those who love books and love reading. Alas, I am one of them. 

A lot of the (limited) space available in our apartment is taken by my books, including cookbooks. My wife - trying to limit my purchase of books - gave me a Kindle a couple of years ago, and I have been using it with the utmost pleasure. Unfortunately for her, it didn't stop the avalanche of books being bought. On the contrary: I am buying even more physical books than before, on top of a lot of ebooks. The Kindle only scratch half of my itch, the reading bit, and it scratches it beautifully. But it doesn't satisfy my lust for books. 

Still struggling with the order: by cuisine? By quality of the book? By how often I use them?
Cookbooks are a different beast altogether. The pleasure in cooking from a cookbook is easily rivaled by the pleasure of holding it in your hands, sitting on your favorite side of the sofa, with a drink in your hand, while you start flipping through it, wondering how many places these recipes will take you to...

I only own a couple of e-cookbooks for my Kindle, but I really don't like them. As any Kindle owner knows, the Kindle's greatest achievement is that it disappears in your hands when you are reading a novel or an essay or a newspaper article: you simply forget you are holding a Kindle, you are projected into the story, deeper and better than with a physical book. Alas, what makes the Kindle great for reading is exactly what makes it a less than optimal vessel for your cookbooks. 

When reading a cookbook you don't want the book to disappear. You want to feel its weight, you want to be reminded every minute that you still have many pages to sift through (at least I do). Also, I like it when I open an old cookbook and I see stains from my previous attempts at recipes. As much as I don't want my "other" books to be ruined, I want my cookbooks to age with me. And then there is the photo issue: the Kindle can display photos, but they are in B&W, and frankly, they suck. 

I have read somewhere that a growing number of chefs are coming out with cookbooks designed exclusively for the iPad. Could the iPad be better than the Kindle for cookbooks? I think Apple is good at selling what in Italian goes for "fried air" for a lot of money. I am not a fan (I don't like cults in general), but I do see how an iPad - or any tablet - could work for reading cookbooks. Granted, you lose the "weight" part (although the iPad is a lot heavier than a Kindle, and you never forget that you are holding it  - or so I am told), but you have full color for the photos, you have videos that can show you how to do things...but wait: you do not need an iPad for this...your pc (or mac) is perfectly fine for looking for recipes online and follow them while you are cooking. Or at least this is what I do, and hopefully, this is also what some of you have done with my recipes.

Heavy weights and light weights next to each other: you never know where you are going to find your inspiration, right?
I can only talk for myself obviously, but I would not buy a cookbook only sold on the iPad. It may look mighty fine right now, but where will this book be in 5 years? I know it is an argument that is valid for all digital content in general. I guess my recent misadventure with my ipod, which caused me to lose a big part of the music library I only "owned" digitally, made me very weary of the limits of digital content. 

Plus, I think that my cookbook-only library looks very nice... And I hope that one day, not too far away, my son Piero, who is now only 3 months old, may pull one of the books out of the shelf and ask me to cook something together...

8 comments:

Fabrizio Cariani said...

Agreed. I own some e-cook-books, but when I browse, I rarely browse those.

One advantage of electronic versions of cookbooks is that you can decide to make a recipe *while* you are shopping (I just pull out the kindle app from my iphone and see what ingredients I need).

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Excellent point, Fabrizio. When I browse I too rarely browse those I own...

True abou the portability and the spur of the moment. There are also other advantages: on a pc or a tablet you may include in a recipe direct links to other recipes you need (a sauce, a reduction). Also, I read somewhere that soon there will be voice-activated tablets that will let you "turn the page" by voice, without touching the device with your dirty fingers.

It all sounds fascinating, but it is somethig different than a book. Maybe better from a functional point of view. But - at least for me - cookbooks are not only function.

Anonymous said...

Do you realize how many trees have been killed for your stupid love of books?

Every time you touch a page of your precious little books you are touching a dead person. MURDERER!!!

Tuscan foodie in America said...

I hope the comment above is a joke. Yes, trees have been cut to produce these books. Perhaps they are trees specifically grown for paper making purposes, perhaps they aren't. I don't know.

But I am puzzled by why using trees would be tantamount to murder. And how touching paper translates into touching dead people.

By the way: I guess you are using electricity to write comments like the one you just wrote. unless you have a windmill on your head, chances are somebody is using oil to produce your electricity. I could argue that oil contains the remains of dead dinosaurs...but I guess that would put me at your level, and I don't want to go that low...

Claudio said...

E' già da un po' di tempo che ti seguo e non posso fare a meno di complimentarmi per quello che scrivi e come lo scrivi. Tra l'altro ho ritrovato i tuoi commenti pure sul Post.. Il mio inglese non è così fluente, spero di poter commentare anche in italiano senza compromettere troppo il "respiro" internazionale del blog...
Ah, appoggio in pieno le tue riflessioni sui libri. Un Kindle o un iPad non potranno mai eguagliare la sensazione di stringere un libro nuovo tra le mani.
Ciao!

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Ciao Claudio,

Benvenuto e grazie! Sul post cerco di trattenermi, perche' mi ero ripromesso di parlare solo di cibo...ma a volte non ci riesco!

Rossella said...

I have the same problem. Lots of books, cookbooks and a person in the house who want to limit their space. Anyway, cooking justifies that pleasure to buy & read :)
I'm still skeptical about Kindle for cookbooks.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi Rossella, welcome! Kindle was never designed to be used for reference books, but only to read novels and essays. That's the issue when it comes to cookbooks. I can see why the iPad would work, because it is exactly the same as a pc. Only, more expensive!!!

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...