It is January, but I want you to think back to Christmas and have look in your mind at all those wonderfully wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree and the excited feeling of wonder what they all could be. Receiving a gift and not knowing what it is, unwrapping the gift and then seeing that someone took the effort to buy something you didn’t know you wanted, but then realizing it is the perfect gift for you. That is sheer happiness, because you not only realize you like the present, you also realize that the one that is giving you the gift really loves you and thought about you and knows you so well that he or she knew exactly what to choose. Those gifts are the best.
Which brings me to the phenomenon of wish lists. I hate wish lists! Wish lists are the cancer of this world. They should be forbidden. They are too pragmatic, too lazy. Whish lists are an insult to friendship. They burden you with the task of thinking exactly what you want and only the “hard task” of actually buying the gifts is transferred to the people that will give the present. It’s pointless and the only reason why they exist is that people are lazy and afraid to give the wrong presents. But does this laziness and angst really weigh up to the loss of joy and the stress of being responsible for selecting the gifts you will receive? No it doesn’t! Wish lists, just like gift cards, kill any romantic appeal presents ever had.
I refuse to ask people for a wish list and I have a very simple strategy to find the perfect gift. I visit my local book store and spend an hour there to find the perfect book. It must be a book I like myself. A book I would want to read myself. A book of which I am jealous to have given it away and of which I know I will ask to borrow it after they have finally read it. I have been pretty successful with this strategy. People love receiving beautiful books and people love it when you surprise them and they can marvel at how on earth you knew they would love this book. Giving presents is the best feeling if you get it right.
Which brings me to the single biggest problem I have with ebooks. They suck as presents. When you’re at a birthday party you want something tangible to give. I already said I hate gift cards and sending an email with a code for a free ebook just doesn’t work for me. Presents need presence. You need to be able to physically give a present, not a symbolic piece of paper. You need to be able to pass the present around and with books you have the added benefit that you can immediately start reading a couple of pages. Not too many of course, that’s a rude thing to do at a birthday party, but just enough to start a conversation. Books are the best conversation starters there are and I’ve spent many birthday parties and Christmas Eves talking about the books we all received. I see no solution at all for this major problem with ebooks. But that’s ok. I never said I wanted to get rid of all paper books. I like both paper and ebook and I will probably stick with paper books when it comes to giving presents. Paper books rule as presents. There’s no way around it and we have to accept the fact that ebooks will forever be inadequate as presents.