Last year I watched a guy sell my mom a Nook at Barnes & Noble and my stomach flopped like a baby seal trying to eat all of the fish. Making matters worse was the knowledge I was going to have to learn how to use this betrayal to books just so my mom could operate it. As I ranted about how e-readers were viciously spanking the publishing industry, I breezed through the setup and download process. Sure, it was easy, even convenient, but it was still the evil stepchild of paper books and I would not condone this behavior. Two months ago, I graduated from college as an English Literature major and was gifted a Kindle Touch.
There’s a huge part of me that believes rolling with technology is a necessary fact of the times. However, there’s also a part of me that doesn’t want the evolution of books to be affected by any part of this world other than fingertips. A personal relationship with books is irreplaceable. We wear books down with every read, maybe highlighting or folding pages where the author made more sense of an experience than we could hope to articulate. When we’re done with a book, it goes on a shelf or is lent to a friend and becomes a talking point. On my Kindle, I press “Archive” and it goes….somewhere.
I’m not saying digital storage of books or e-readers are a bad thing. There are still ways to lend your books to other users or share your reading status via social networks. While social sharing is optimized, I’m fairly concerned the Kindles and Nooks limit our discussions to “Yeah, I read that too.” Call me old fashioned and send my cat and me to my room with tea, but I’ve longed for a discussion past “It’s good, right?” E-readers have given us the chance to tote entire libraries around the world, but the presence of another screen in front of our faces not only further blocks us from engaging with the people around us in public, but also prevents us from appreciating the work as it was meant to be – printed.
Regardless of the cons, I have found some serious pros to my Kindle. The first book I read, “Kasher in the Rye” by Moshe Kasher. It was not a huge hit by a well known author, but instead a really great memoir by a comedian publishing his first book. I couldn’t find the book in either big city north or south of my home, but lo and behold, the Kindle Store was my saving grace. A lot of out of print books have come into my tiny hands this way. I found myself reading faster on the screen than I seem to while reading in print. At first, I was perturbed by being unable to feel or see how far into a book I was, but the Kindle does a good job with quick access to page numbers. I’ve preferred landscape mode reading as opposed to portrait mode; somehow the format feels more natural.
As for whether or not I’m on board with the e-reading movement, I think I still have a long way to go before I’m convinced books should be completely digitized. I’ve been thrilled to see schools use Kindles and Nooks to promote reading in the classroom. Yet, the feeling of a book’s weight shift from right to left as you finish and being able to physically handle a great work of art doesn’t translate when limited to a screen. I won’t regift my Kindle or quit using it, but I’ll be sure to go to my bookshelf just as often.
Lauren Mack: Co-founder of The Well Written Woman is an aspiring writer, blogger, and overall enthusiast of brainstorms. She is a graduate of Flagler College with a BA in English Literature and has no intentions to teach. Lauren spends a lot of time reading novels and hoping she can one day finish her own. She often wonders how they made blue cheese so delicious. Really, she is just imposing her elitist attitude on everyone. You can find her pennings at her blogand follow her on Twitter.