Thursday, December 29, 2011
The e-Reader Debate
I love books. Let me make that as clear as possible. There is nothing that compares to holding a book in your hands and feeling the significance in its weight. I love turning pages forward to feel the progress I'm making but also flipping back to ones I've already read to find the connections. (Or when I'm reading Russian works, I need to flip back to remember all the names!) I like penciling in notes in the margins or underlining a passage I want to be able to quickly find again. I adore antique books that have soft leather covers and that delightful musty smell of old pages. Some of my most prized possessions are volumes I have from the 1800s, such as my first-edition copy of The Portrait of a Lady. A reading tablet could never be a legitimate substitute for something like that.
Another objection I had to Kindles was a commercial they had on TV. In it, a guy and a girl have a short "debate" about Kindles versus books. I can hardly bring myself to call it a debate because the arguments are absolutely pathetic. The only defense the girl offers for books is that she feels satisfaction turning down a page. I don't think there's a single book lover who would say that is the primary reason he or she enjoys holding a book. In fact, I imagine that many adament book lovers would never dream of damaging the page by folding it down. I was so irritated with the completely inadequate defense of books that I formed a negative opinion of Kindles in general.
My other favorite feature is that you can download almost every classic for free. You heard me - FREE. I have not yet paid one penny to put a book on my Kindle, nor have I run out of memory space. Now, it's a piece of cake to check out books that people recommend to me. In just seconds, I can have a free copy in my hands that I don't have to worry about finding or returning to the library.
Finally, the internet feature has been helpful to me. It is certainly not the easiest internet browser, but it's functional. Yet because I don't have internet on my phone, my Kindle has helped me out in a few tight spots. If I want to do something fairly simple, like look up the weather, a restaurant's number, my email, etc., my Kindle does the job. The iPad clearly has a much better internet system, and people unfamiliar with my Kindle tend to struggle with using the online feature. But remember that the Kindle is designed for reading, and the internet is just a handy addition.
HOWEVER, I still love books, and I still believe that there is no replacement for them. If I'm just sitting on the couch, I would rather read a physical book. I miss being able to flip through past pages when I want to make a connection or check something out. I miss penciling in notes for passages I want to be able to quickly reference. I don't feel like I'm making as much progress when I am looking at a percentage number rather than feeling the weight shift as the finished pages surpass the ones yet to read. And as I said earlier, I adore antique books with their soft leather covers, golden trim, and musty book scent. A Kindle can't reproduce this, and thus it could never extinguish books. But I've learned that it does have its advantages, and I can heartily recommend it, especially to those who use the subway!
But I want to hear from you! What do you think of e-readers? Do you like them? Hate them? Did you get one for Christmas? Can you understand my internal struggle? I look forward to your thoughts!