Op Ed

The E-Reader Wars Should Be Over

When the Kindle first came on the scene, it was ALL I EVER WANTED. A small device that could hold thousands of books. I talked about it so much that both my mother and my boyfriend got me one for Christmas (thus beginning a long series of Christmases in which they accidentally got me the same thing every year, but that’s another story) and I immediately started downloading books onto the one I kept. But never, never did I decide I would give up “real” books. Never.

Even when I eventually got a used iPad and mainly used that for my e-reading, game playing, and all around computer-lite needs, I never lost faith in the magic of “actual” books. Even when libraries started offering e-books as free downloads from the comfort of my couch, I never stopped browsing the shelves.

Because real readers don’t.

The snobbery related to e-reading devices is, and I’m going to go out on a limb here, dumb. Almost every day I see something about how a person only reads “real” books, would never read electronically, and it never fails to make me roll my eyes. The only reason to broadcast this is a sense of superiority in your reading habits, the idea that you are better because you refuse to change reading mediums.

You’re like an old person with a newspaper who wants to stop the internet.

I like newspapers. I like the way they crinkle, and I like the way they smell. I like the way you can spread them out on the table and pick and choose your way through the articles while you sprinkle coffee cake crumbs all over them. But I hate that they’re expensive and that I can’t have them on demand. This doesn’t mean I’m denying the existence of newspapers, it just means that if I had to wait for the news to come out, I wouldn’t be able to keep up on Twitter.

Tales have never been about their medium. When stories were told orally, the craft of the teller was praised, true, but did that make storytelling any less important when the printing press was invented? Of course not. It just made the storytelling a bit more static, and made it reach more people. It’s the same with e-reading. Not having to wait to journey to the nearest bookstore an hour from my home means that I can read the book I want on demand with a quick download. Does that mean I’m not going to grab a bestseller off the shelves at my local grocery store? Of course not, because it’s right there.

“But it’s the feel, it’s the smell!” I know. I love the smell of an old book, and I love the excitement of turning the pages more quickly. But the thing about a medium is that the medium itself is intended to disappear, and you’re surrounded by the ideas, by the feel of the words, by the characters who somehow became people. In a good book, it doesn’t matter how you’re reading it because the medium you’re using should be unnoticeable.

There are books I will always buy in print mainly because I love having full hardcover sets of favorite series. And because I love getting books in the mail. But that will never stop me from downloading e-books that I want to read right then. And as a high-volume reader, I can easily read ten to fifteen books on a week long vacation. Packing that many in my suitcase would just be silly when I can throw a kindle in my carry-on. The e-reader wars are over, and as it turns out, everybody won. Nothing went away, and now all we have is more options.

“Yeah, well, I still only read real books,” you say? Why don’t you just hold this device for a minute while I tie my shoe. But you have to give it back at the end.

By amandamarieg

Amandamarieg is a lawyer who does not work as a lawyer. She once wrote up a plan to take over the world and turned it in as a paper for a college course. She only received an A-, because she forgot that she would need tech geeks to pull off her scheme.

4 replies on “The E-Reader Wars Should Be Over”

I just don’t understand what all of the hullabaloo is about in the argument between e-reader users and physical book readers. My husband and I have six full sized bookshelves full of books that we keep reading, and we both have Kindles that we use for traveling convenience. I love books, and I will read them in any form that I can get them. Shoot, if I can get my hands on a free copy of Le Comte de Monte Cristo, I am all over that, regardless of form. (And it was on Kindle, so on my e-reader it is!)

My e-reader is primarily home to erotica, Greek classics, and 19th century books that I swear I will one day read. My snobbishness over e-readers disappeared when I realised what they provided in terms of accessibility: light, minor action to turn page, etc. I’m fortunate that I can hold “real” books, not everyone can. They also allow accessibility in terms of download vs having to physically buy a book.

I still love real books, however. I would say though that the form of the book can very much influence the reading. For instance, reading an 18th century version of a book, is – I found – very different to reading the digital version. Reading a (modern) special edition can bring about a very different atmosphere to reading a mass market version. Reading a beloved and battered copy of a book can be different to reading a digital version.

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