With the rise in the popularity of e-readers and Kindles, everyone has an opinion on whether they are the best thing since sliced pan or a doomsday threat to our society and culture. Maybe the most noise from the latter camp is Jonathan Franzen’s asinine statements to curry media favour but there still are some arguments which place paper books and e-books into a false dichotomy of one being better than the other.
The crux of the anti-ereader argument stems from the idea of an ebook not being the real thing or the true experience of a book. The first problem is what exactly is a ‘real’ book? It is important to define whether a book is just the text which we read or includes the means by which we read the text. Is a book therefore defined by the medium in which we read it? For me, a book is no more than the sum of the words contained within its paper pages or electronic formatting, and the means by which I read it are merely a matter of convenience and availability.
An addendum to this ‘real experience’ argument concerns the tactile nature of books; fetishing the page-turn of a new book or the smell of old books. These are truly lovely things but sometimes, the glimpse of matte metal, the crisp contrast of a E Ink Pearl display and a memory card filled with hundreds of books can fill me with just as much happiness.
Another argument is missing searching around the bookshop or library for a much-loved novel from your childhood or stumbling across new book from a favourite author. The thing is that when you purchase an e-reader, you don’t sign a contract binding you to buy only e-books from now on. Bookshops and libraries aren’t off limits, and I’m guessing for most users of e-readers and Kindles, still are a regular trip.
E-Readers, like most technology, are meant to make your life more practical and manageable. Instead of straining your shoulder muscles carrying heavy books around in your handbag or having to choose between books for a weekend away, e-readers and Kindles offer a practical solution. If you want to start building a small library, buy a book in paper format, or if you are going to read a book once and forget about it, buy the e-book version.
Instead of arguing about whether we are being authentic by reading paper or modern and up-to-date by using technology, lets celebrate our shared love of words. Most importantly, read!