Alright, so I’m generally not a “soap box” kind of person. I hold fiercely to my personal opinions and defend them when necessary, but generally I prefer to respect other people’s right to be every bit as firm in their ideas as I am in mine. With that being said, I am ready to add my own two cents to the blood bath that is the e-reader vs. books war. No topic is quite so controversial in an independent bookstore, (although it is followed quite closely by Amazon and online purchasing.)
Firstly, I am perfectly aware of the advantages of an e-reader. Small enough to be carried virtually anywhere yet still possesses the capacity to hold multiple books; it’s a tempting gadget for any reader, especially the traveling variety. It is its own light source, eliminating both the need for the flashlight under the covers and the struggle over when the bedroom light gets turned off. Its slender design mimics that of the other pieces of technological equipment that we’re so used to carrying around, thus fitting seamlessly into our screen-controlled lives.
There is something special in the paper, the ink, the glue and the gentle whir of fanned pages being released back into place. One only has to glance at a well-worn spine to recognize the impact of a beloved book. The imperfections of an errant drop of ink or a page printed slightly off-kilter lend an authenticity that can’t be mimicked by a back-light. The way the smell of a book changes with the passing years turns a finite thing into a character in its own right. And nothing beats the satisfaction and the heartbreak of turning that final page.
So much in our lives has already been streamlined and transformed into something unrecognizable and efficient. Instead of writing heartfelt letters, we squeeze thoughts into 140 characters. We don’t talk, rather we stalk each other via social media and deceive ourselves into thinking we’ve built some type of connection through a computer. We sit and stare at the screen in our hand instead of looking at the unique human right across the table. Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are a lot of benefits to having vast amounts of information readily available and that technology is in and of itself neither good nor evil, but rather what the individual does with it. But I’m an old soul and a part of me can’t help but mourn the loss of simpler, more genuine things.
Are we really willing to let books go the way of the dinosaur like we have done with so many other things? Can’t we value something for a reason other than its practicality and cost-efficiency? I for one can’t fathom the thought of sacrificing my beautiful books with their multi-sensory nostalgia on the altar of convenience. And I am happy to report that many people seem to share my sentiments about books. Even those who own and use e-readers re-purchase their favorites because it’s “just not the same” on a screen. Are e-readers here to stay? Of course. But will they be the undoing of our beloved ink and paper volumes? I sincerely doubt it.