Thursday, February 17, 2011

On E-Readers

For a split second last year I tried to be one of the those anti-e-reader people. You know the ones. But I love real books. I love cracking them open. I love smelling them. I love collecting them. I like seeing them on my shelf. (See, The Frenemy: How to Read a Book for an example of the haterade.)

And then my mother convinced me that what I really needed in life was an e-reader. In a roundabout way that went something like this:

"Hey I'm getting an e-reader for Christmas. You want one?"


"But look how neat they are. And pretty. And you love technology. Why don't you download a book on your iPhone?"

"Yeah, maybe later."


"Omg, I need a Kindle!"

After reading several books on my Kindle I decided this weekend to run by the library. I had a few dollars in my purse and wanted to get my late fees taken care of. (I unfortunately run up a late fee balance of astronomical amounts at least once a year. I'll never learn to return things on time.) And since I was there it made perfect sense to succumb to the temptation of MORE BOOKS.

Mostly because I wanted to see if I used to be right. If all the people professing their undying love for real books were right. Did the angels sing when I opened a real book? Maybe I couldn't remember that part. Was the smell of a book that intoxicating? Did I have some visceral reaction to the sound of a fresh hardback cracking that I couldn't recall?

I hate to disappoint the e-reader haters but I didn't have any reaction at all. I cried when something sad occurred in The Queen of the Big Time, the real novel I'd decided to read. But I cried when I read the something sad in Mockingjay on my Kindle. The heavens didn't part, angels didn't sing, the smell didn't mesmerize me. The only difference was how I held the book.

What I think we've forgotten is that it is not, nor should it be, about the paper itself. A book is only a vessel. The words are what matters. It doesn't matter if I'm flipping through paper pages, or clicking a button to read some more e-ink words. Either option transports me to Hogwarts, Roseto, Pennsylvania, or District 12. How you choose to have those worlds delivered isn't what matters.

You don't want an e-reader? Fine. But I think we should stop dissing folks who do. Who cares how anyone wants to read a book? We should only be thrilled that they want to. Period.

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