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|Written by Agnes Cadieux|
|Wednesday, 01 December 2010 00:00|
We've come a long way in our technological advances. From colour TVs to satellite phones, to mail which we now have to hyphenate to distinguish ("is that e-mail or snail-mail you're sending?"), our world is travelling at mach speed. I never thought, though, that we would be so bold as to take on the sacred -- but, alas, we have. We have gone ahead in our false sense of invincibility, and we have gadgetized books. All right, fine -- we're helping the environment by not mowing down the rainforest to spit out the third book of whatever series you're involved in right now, but I'd never thought that it would be our generation that would take this ancient form of information and turn it into something I can fry with a spray bottle.
Let's take a step back into history for a moment: The practice of writing has been around since the Bronze Age of Mesopotamia. Alphabetic writing emerged from Ancient Egypt some 5,000 years ago. Since that time, people have been writing and rewriting, trying to find better, more effective ways of passing on information from one person to another.
The bound book as we know it has been with us since the 15th century, and the modern printing press began its journey in the 19th century. The only reason we know this is because we have been able to unearth these objects from the crypts that our forefathers so lovingly buried then in. But here we are today, taking something mankind has cherished and deemed priceless many times in our history, and we've turned it into a sleek, thin matrix of circuit boards.
Although the e-reader is the hottest thing on the market right now, I really don't think it will fare any better than our friends the Furbies and the Tamagotchis. I can give you five reasons why I think paper-bound books will never, ever leave us:
1. I can feel a book:
When I think of a book, I think of the smell of the pages, the weight beneath my fingers, and the way the pages sound when I shuffle through them to the end. In a book, I can see the thought-provoking art on the cover -- or the cheesy attempt at a serious pose that just makes you burst out into laughter, depending on what you're reading. These are the things that the e-readers are taking away from me. I can't just tuck my e-reader under my arm-pit to tie my shoes and say that it was a relatively comfortable experience. I can't fling my e-reader into my backpack, and not really care if my squished banana rubs shoulders with it for the duration of my car ride. I can't (gasp) bend the spine of an e-reader. Yeah, that's right, I bend spines (I dog-ear too!). Let me be honest here: I can shake the sand out of a book, but not so much from an e-reader -- so the last thing you'll ever see me doing is putting a Kindle or a Kobo into a ziplock baggie before I hit the beach.
2. I can lend you a book:
Chances are, if I go dishing out $100 to $150 for an e-reader, I'm not going to let you borrow it. Chances are I won't be able to take you down to my library and have a good conversation with you while I dig through the countless books I've got down there to find the gem we'd been discussing for the past 20 minutes. With a book, I can see what you're reading; I can read the title and maybe even the back cover and get a feel of what the book is about. With an e-reader, you keep your book to yourself. Thanks for sharing, geez...
3. A book is just that, a book:
The e-readers are becoming more interactive, wireless, and user-friendly. They are allowing us to stay connected to the world with the touch of a button, but, in our fast-paced, ADD, instant-messaging world, do we really need another object that is going to put our lives into fast-forward? I read to escape my reality and the get-things-done-faster-better-stronger-now! lifestyle we've created. I read a book because it is a connection to the ancient -- a grounding of sorts. I read because it is the one constant that does not change when I'm already flailing about the other changes we are inflicting on ourselves.
4. Alright, I'll say it: second-hand books:
Yes, you can get plenty of free e-books for your reader, but, to be honest, I'm more likely to go to a second-hand book shop and pull out a ten-dollar bill for some really cool-looking hardcover I found, than swipe plastic at your local Best Buy for an e-reader. The price of downloadable e-books is dropping, and will eventually be more cost-effective, but I don't foresee there being any second-hand e-book sales to support your local charity happening any time soon.
5. As an author...
As an author, I don't spend hours at my computer dreaming and hoping that one day my latest creation will become an e-book. No, I sit there and dream of holding my first-edition copy in my hands, and passing it on to people. I dream of signing the first page, and giggling girlishly when I see my words physically wedged between the gaudy artwork that my publisher and I fought over for weeks. I've met many editors and agents in my trek through this literary jungle, and every time I marvel at the amount who -- although they prefer getting queries and submissions electronically -- will print everything off their screens to take home or into the lunch rooms to go over. Sure, you can 'track changes' with any word processor, but nothing beats taking pen to paper and drawing out those smiley faces and arrows to point out what was good and what needs a second look.
Argue it any way you want. Tell me that the paperback will go the way of the 35 millimeter and the eight-track. I, in turn, will tell you that there are many different ways to see the world. I will also tell you that I've got 5,000 years to back up the argument that the written page is much more infinite than the computer chip. In the great debate of book versus e-reader, there really is only one question that always comes to mind for me: why, oh, why did we go and try to fix something that was never broken in the first place?
all excellent points agnes!
as a big reader of both fiction and comic books, i need that tactile contact. reading a comic book is just not the same when it's read on a screen (and i've tried). there will also be a demand for the printed word in book-format, just like there will always be fans of the vinyl/cd formats in music.