To Kindle or not to Kindle . . . ? That is the question.
Whether we like it or not, technology is pushing us forward. There was a time when people invented things out of need. Fire. Burial. Clothing (unfortunately). Now it seems corporations cram new technologies down our throats every other week. Being a Luddite/naturist, I’ve resisted unnecessary changes to the way we live our lives, especially when it comes to the timeless tradition of reading. Since the dawn of papyrus, which was first hammered into shape by the ancient Egyptians in the 3rd millennium B.C., and later by the Phoenicians of Biblos (hence the Greek word biblos, which means bible or book), people have been transmitting information via ink. Sure, TV and Internet have come along, where one might choose to read the CNN app or my blog, but those things pose no threat to the written (literally) word. Now, as soon as you walk into any Barnes & Nobles, you are visually assaulted by their e-book kiosks (their brand is called the Nook). You might think B&N doesn’t want you reading paper anymore, as if they’re embarrassed by the countless tree corpses stacked in their stores. Of course, what company can resist the lure of selling something that costs $0 to mass produce? The potential savings on printing made possible by the electronic book has driven book sellers to push and push and push this new way of reading, despite near universal disdain for it. People like the “feel” of paper, the heft of pages left behind and pages left to go, the pride felt when you set down a weighty tome knowing you’ve mentally devoured the whole of it. You simply don’t get that feeling of accomplishment with an e-book. Until recently, e-books were also quite a strain on the eyes. Just look at this blog right now. Really look closely at the text. Feel the strain? Even as a writer, I have my concerns about e-books. Junk novels are popping up all over the place, which makes it harder for seriously tortured writers like myself to get noticed. After all, if it costs next to nothing to publish, everyone will start doing it. Without the vetting provided by agents, editors or publishers, quality work is bound to get lost amid the dreck and people on the fence about reading will likely pick up their X-Box controllers instead. Yes—e-books are a thing of the devil, a product of pure greed made by big corps. to cash in big. Plus, you know, tradition.
Then I came upon the Kindle Paperwhite, and virtually no more eye strain, since the Paperwhite produces an image near identical to real paper. You really have to read it to believe it. Also, if I have to be honest with myself and my naturist principles, I cannot continue to condone the murder of trees for the sake of publishing. E-books will certainly save a lot of forest. There are also pragmatic concerns even I can’t ignore. For instance, my shelf is quite literally full. I have no place left in my room to put books, unless I start stacking them on the floor or egads! start getting rid of my action figures. With the Kindle, I can store my entire collection in my hand, and if anything happens to the device, Amazon logs my every purchase for future (and free) downloading. Best of all is the dictionary feature. Most adults don’t bother learning new words (unless you’re a writer); picking up the Oxford English Dictionary each and every time you come across an obscure reference is just too time consuming, not to mention heavy. I am currently reading the second part of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, A Clash of Kings, and I am quite befuddled by some of the more archaic terminology the author uses. Before the Kindle, I would have likely glossed over words like palfrey, wain or gorget—now I can press my finger to the page and viola! instant definition.
Does this mean we can do away with all our paper books? Not necessarily. A world without paper is a poorer world indeed. And I am a big proponent of touching. If I ever run for president, my platform will be, Vote for Alimonos, For a more touchy, feely society. Plus, should we ever come upon a global apocalypse, where all electricity is wiped out and we’ll be forced to live as naked primitives (secretly crossing fingers), it will be nice knowing our literary heritage and history is safely preserved on paper.
In summation, the e-book is not the end of society as we know it. Despite its birth from greed, it has its inadvertent plus side. Give it a chance and it just might surprise you. The world is changing, after all, and just like the Sumerians, who likely argued in favor of clay tablets, You can write cuneiform much faster with sticks than with a quill! we must learn to adapt to new ways of sharing our stories.
Here’s a few pros and cons to using an e-reader:
– Stores all your books in one place
– Much lighter to hold than most books
– You don’t have to hold it open / you can hold it with one hand
– You don’t have to worry about ripping a page or spilling a little bit of water on it
– Read while eating by propping it up on a table
– Less weight for travel
– Feel better about the environment
– Instant dictionary option
– Intangible pages
– Eye strain (a bit, even with the Paperwhite)
– Less sense of accomplishment
– Nothing to display on your bookshelf
– Covers look awful (will likely get better)
– Hard to share books with others
– No page numbers (really?)
– You don’t want to get a lot of water on it
– Battery life / need to recharge it
– May break completely
– Useless without electricity
– Not as good for killing roaches