A book or an E-reader?

Books. A lot of us love them.

And a lot of us do not mind them existing in other formats, whether that be an electronic reader (Kindle, Nook, etc.) or through another electronic medium.

However, there are some out there who are vehemently against this new-fangled technology of electronic readers. I used to be one of them.

When Kindles, Nooks, Amazon Fire Tablets, and iPads first joined the market, I turned my nose up in disgust: “There is nothing better than holding a physical book in your hand, turning the pages, and smelling the old.” That is, until my husband proudly bought me a Kindle for my birthday. Uh-oh.

Kindle 2 - Front.jpg
Behold…the dreaded birthday present

I was really worried that I was going to have to pretend to like my new gift. But just like all humans and shiny, new toys…I was suckered in. You create an Amazon account, link it to your Kindle, and then start shopping. I am almost 100% positive that Kindle purposely did the following: they made nearly all the classic novels absolutely free (or $0.99).

Well, there went my reservations about this thing.

Just like any bibliophile, I was poor and had dreams of owning the world’s largest library. That dream library, previously, was a physical space. A place where I could walk in, ascend my choice of spiral staircase, and pick the physical copy of a book I loved (breaking out into song and dance always allowed).

Now that there are e-readers, my dream of a grandiose library seems further and further away from developing. Why spend twice, even three times, more on physical copies of books when the electronic version is cheaper and arguably more accessible? Modern bookstores are currently tackling this problem: stores likes Barnes and Noble created their own version of the e-reader (the Nook) and others are making a profit off of selling second-hand books (2nd & Charles).

Many bibliophiles (like myself) still like the feel of a book in one’s hands. We see this as more natural, even more Romantic, in the sense that we are connected more not only to the physical copy of the book but also to the story and the author who wrote it. The feeling is almost inexplicable, only fellow bibliophiles will just nod their heads in agreement. But does this make electronic versions of our books the enemies?

I don’t think so. Just as Jay David Bolter states throughout his book Writing Space, electronic versions are solely remediations of books and they would not exist without the physical copy (even in our increasingly electronic-based world). Because we have electronic versions of our favorites might even make us more protective of physical copies, and our desire to print traditional texts probably increases (with some minor adjustments).

Personally, I still buy both electronic books and physical copies. I’m still not rich enough to buy a three-story library, so I compare the prices of the electronic versions to the physical copies (which are almost always second-hand), and buy the cheaper of the two. Having the Kindle does make reading more accessible…to a point. I can access any of the books I have purchased, and even log on to the bookstore to purchase another; however, I can only log on if I have internet access. And for those of us who have e-readers, you know how frustrating it is when you forgot to charge that little sucker (why!!!). I’ve never had to charge a book, but I have easily forgotten the copy at home.

It seems that our world is becoming so dependent on electronic technology that it’s almost pointless to ask: book or e-reader? Sometimes we do not have an easy choice. If we can access a book, written in the 15th century by a monk living on top of a snow-capped mountain, because it’s available electronically online then kudos to new technology. I would rather have that information available than to have never accessed it at all. In the words of Lucille Ball (purportedly): “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.”

So what do you think? Are you a die-hard physical-copy human, or are you solely a cyborg? Or are you both?





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