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>Is that a hobbit in my pocket?

Mainly because I could, last night I downloaded the Lord of the Rings to my Baby-Touch-Me iPod. Fourteen bucks from Amazon’s Kindle store, not bad.

I’m all for ebooks and read them a lot, but I wonder if the format will encourage the kind of devotion to a text that my friends and I had for the Tolkien books in high school and college. I went through three paperback editions: the Baynes covers (I had a poster based on those, see left), the Tolkien watercolors (pale but evocative) and the Brothers Hildebrandt (fanboy embarrassing). The Baynes were for a boxed set ($3.00!) and in every case, having the books meant as much as reading the books. Digital culture will obviously create its own items of nostalgia (like that damned Myst music) but how will plain text fare?

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Anonymous says:

    >My aunt and uncle gave me a boxed set of The Lord of the Rings when I was young and just getting into the books. The timing was probably coincidental, but it was just right. It was a paperback set, nothing fancy, but as elegant and serious as a Bible. The covers were tan, with black (red?) lettering, and in the center of each cover was the same image, a clean and simple but convincing Tolkien drawing of Sauron’s eye, encircled by the ring and runes. Nothing flashy or gaudy about it, no faux leather, gold trim, etc. Totally understated. (The opposite, in many ways, of Pete Jackson’s vision, which seemed to need to turn every visceral knob as high as it would go.) The set seemed to sit in silent command of my bookshelf, and of course I still have it.

  2. GraceAnne LadyHawk says:

    >I had the “approved” paperback set in college. I read it during reading days first year while studying madly for exams, and read it every January after that for nearly a decade.
    Then I didn’t read it again for about 12 years, and discovered when I did (a lovely hardbound edition this time) how much it had informed my prose, my thinking (I made a button in the 1970s that said, Light and dark, good and evil, god and sex, what else is there?, and my love of high fantasy.

    Before the movies came out, I reread everything in a one volume paperback edition, so I would be ready for the movies.

    I really love this book almost more than I can say.

  3. Melissa in England!! says:

    >The first time I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy was when I was 14 years old, and they were my dad’s lovely boxed set of the Tolkien watercolors. I’ve purchased my own paperback copies since, but they just aren’t the same. That original hardcover set still holds so much magic for me.

    I am a “young person” (23 years old), and I will say, loudly and proudly, that having the physical books is still EXTREMELY important to me…and most of the twenty-somethings I know. Nothing can compare to the actual, physical, paper-and-ink book. Nothing.

    The physical book has character that a digital file can never have. It also has a power to evoke emotions (nostalgia, particularly) and associations (comfort, familiarity) that ebooks could never possess.

    I have to admit that I even have more than one copy of some of my favorite books…a reading copy and a “shelf copy”…because I like having a familiar, well-worn, falling-apart-at-the-seams, “this book has been with me every step of the way” copy in addition to the impressive, beautifully crafted, pristine copy that just looks really nice in my bookcase.

    Mind you, I am also a literature scholar and very soon-to-be publisher, so I may not be the most typical example of how someone my age might think and feel…

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