A Hard Copy Girl in an eReader’s World

Woman reading outdoors with yellow flowersThe below post is my response to a terrific opinion piece, “The Future of Books,” over at Writing. Family. Life. Please check out the original piece and then come back to read my response.

Why am I posting my response here instead of there?

When my comment surpasses the 100-word mark I feel it’s more polite to share it here rather than bogart so much space on someone else’s page. Perhaps I’m just being weird but, hey, when has that ever stopped me from doing something?

While you read my response keep in mind I didn’t get my first cell phone until 2005 (and only then because my mother guilted me into it) and I just received my first MP3 player in June 2010 as a birthday gift. I limit my use of technology to a need-to-have-to-function basis unless it’s a gift; I’ll play around with the gift for awhile and then either shelve it, donate it to the library or freecycle it. The simple personal life I strive to maintain requires the limited use of stuff I deem as unnecessary luxuries.

Electronic readers and iPads and whatever other incarnations of these in the future, are, I believe, here to stay. But will they completely replace physical books? Technology has proven to be very, very good at providing small changes that are capable of big differences in people’s lives. This, surely, will be one of those things. I do think they will eventually replace physical books – but not for a very long time. There will still be hold-outs like myself. (Excerpt from “The Future of Books.”)

Great post, Eileen! And I agree eReaders are cool, fun and convenient. In June 2010, a relative let me play around with her Kindle, a neat little device that impressed me with its ease of use, storage capacity and lightweight design.

But I won’t buy a Kindle or any of its species.

I spend somewhere between 10-12 hours each day reading a computer screen for my business. Then, add on the time I spend writing my fiction in MS Word, reviewing my daughter’s lessons, researching / mind-mapping, networking, reading blogs, and doing my personal bookkeeping. By the time I’m finished with those recurring items, the thought of reading any electronic device makes me antsy and grumpy — even the microwave’s timer or the digital clock irks me at that point. All I want to do at the end of the day is curl up in bed with a good old-fashioned tangible door to another world that requires only three things to operate: my eyes, my hands and my imagination.

Where technology, electricity and batteries fail, books never let me down.

In addition, one of my favorite things about the morning is waking up to the crowded bookshelf across from the bed that reminds me I’m only a few feet away from the escape I’ll get after the day’s exhausting technology-packed activities. It certainly would not fill me with the same warm fuzzies to see my bookshelf housing only an eReader.

Children with face in books outdoorsAnd what about the children?

Are we honestly going to allow real children’s books to become extinct? To become mere “collectibles” our children only hear about? An eReader cannot give parents and kids the same experience – namely bonding outside the world of technology – that beautifully told and illustrated stories like The Tale of Peter Rabbit or Guess How Much I Love You have for years and years. I won’t even mention the Dr. Seuss books. Oh wait, I just did.

Seriously, would you get more nostalgic thinking back on your first childhood reading experience if it was centered around reading an electronic device or reading a hardcover story with colorful illustrations? Kids love to turn pages. They love to trace their fingers over words and shapes and pictures. I don’t know why we’d want to eliminate that experience from their early development especially if we’re trying to nurture new readers into lifelong readers.

I will always have real books and I hope they don’t end up as just “collectibles.” Surely there’s a way to balance this technological advancement with the demand of old-timers like myself and with the needs of those who cannot afford to purchase an eReader and eBooks. Low-income families already have a tough enough time when it comes to reading and having enough books on hand, this will only make that gap even larger. It’s sad enough that libraries are falling by the wayside, please don’t allow books to do the same.

If I’m forced to buy an eReader for lack of the real books I want to read, I’ll be a very unhappy camper, I mean, reader. And should someone attempt “to pry a book out of my cold, dead, hand” they’re gonna end up haunted by one cranky chick for the rest of their life. Just sayin’.

So, chime in: Have you already converted to the dark side; that is, have you joined the eReader revolution?

I’d love to hear some feedback from those on either side of this issue.

13 Comments:

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  2. Haven’t joined the dark side and I have no plans to in the immediate future. Reading a book, holding a book, smelling it, is all part of the deal. I don’t weant to imagine it being any other way. Call me old-fashioned.

    • I’m really glad you mentioned smell. I get the strangest looks from people when I crack open a new book, close my eyes and inhale its aroma. Man, I love that scent! Textbooks are the best, new scent-wise. The “classics” are best when they’re old and almost worn out — their smell is something special, too.

      It just boggles my simple mind how quickly some people are making the switch. Perhaps it seems like more people than it actually is – marketing at its very best – but I refuse to convert. Yes, even if that means I have to lug around a bag the size of a small child in order to have my faves with me when I travel. (Truth be told, I’ve always done more writing than reading when I’m traveling, though.)

      And don’t get me wrong: I definitely see the advantage of eReaders for certain people (individuals who don’t have roots, those in the publishing industry who read several manuscripts each week, etc.) but I still urge those individuals to not give up on printed books entirely.

  3. Leah, I’m honored! Thank you so much. You have some VERY good points to make that I didn’t think of, too. That’s what’s great about all this posting among friends. Love it!

    On another note, I see you started posting again (before this one, I mean) and I just know I signed up for notification. Guess I need to look into that. But let me just say I’m SO happy to see you back!

    • You’re most welcome! Just another thing I love about blogging: the additional perspectives and ways of seeing things.

      As far as your subscription, I don’t see you on the list. Maybe your confirmation e-mail was eaten by computer gremlins? They are ravenous buggers so you might want to try again. Be sure and let me know if you have any problems.

      Work killed my motivation in July – I do a lot of blogging / writing for my clients – but it’s good to be back, fo sho! I hadn’t missed a month in two years, which bummed me out a bit, but you have to roll with the punches, right?

  4. Addendum: I realize a major drawback to printed books is the environmental damage caused by making them. But there has to be ways to decrease that impact. While researching this morning I found an organization in Minnesota with a great idea on how to do just that: Books for the Future – One Tree Planted for Each Book Sold. Check out their site when you have a moment.

    Do you know of any other organizations with a similar mission statement or idea? If so, please share. I’d love to find something like BFTF in Ohio. Right now I do my part by borrowing from the library, buying old books at Half Price Book Store in Columbus, and donating the books we own but no longer read to the library or to the local Freecycle groups. Overall, I’d say I still buy more new than used; I’m sure that’ll even out as I get closer to meeting my reading challenge each year since I can’t afford to buy that many new books.

  5. Just like kids still play “real” football even though “video football” has been around for 30 years, kids may still read “real” books while having interactive books on an iPad or Kindle. My own kids — ages 23 down to 5 — like reading on the Internet or a kindle better than “books,” in part because those illustrations that they like can be more numerous and move or interact; the little kids like books about counting and the alphabet that include not just a picture of a lion, but a lion that walks and roars.

    They still read “real” books, though — and like them.

    Books can also be less expensive in electronic form, with authors making just as much if not more. If you’d pay $20 for a book now, and then sell the book to Half-Price Books, you could pay $10 for that book in electronic format, and give $5 to some charity promoting literacy, coming out ahead.

    Libraries can also adapt to the electronic age in a couple of ways. Our library has two kindles that can be checked out for 2 weeks at a time, each with about 20 best sellers on them. Publishers could go to a “rental” model for books like Netflix has for movies: You could subscribe to a publisher and get a book at a time for a monthly fee, with the book being deleted off your hard drive when you get the next one, or pay less to rent the book: instead of buying for $9.99, you could “rent” the book for $0.99 per week. Read it in 2 weeks and you’ve gotten the book for $1.98.

    Libraries could be allowed free rentals that they then re-rent to you for a limited time only.

    • Thank you, Briane, for your input. However, I have to disagree that the introduction of more electronics is good for kids or adults. Statistics show – and from my own observations – kids are not doing as many real activities as they used to. As a matter of fact, I’d say the increased video game and TV usage is likely the number two cause of childhood obesity – number one being the poor “food” choices most parents offer their kids.

      Now kids don’t even have to use their imagination or critical thinking skills; they see and hear everything from the designer’s or illustrator’s imagination on the screen. Sad, really. I wonder, if little kids are reading Kindles that offer interactive illustrations and what not, does that mean parents don’t sit with their child and read out loud? Make funny voices for each of the characters? Help the child sound out a word? Again, it just seems like another easy way to disconnect from our kids or replace ourselves with an electronic device.

      Sure, as supplemental tools eReaders and other electronic teaching devices are great. But I fear they won’t remain simply supplements. You know, sort of like the boob tube babysitter so many parents rely on nowadays. (I’m not saying you use electronic devices as babysitters, just sayin’ a lot of parents do.) I’ve seen these situations with kids over the past 10 years and it’s why I’m vigilant with my daughter. I am of the thinking that the less connected you are to a computer, TV or electronic device, the more you’re able to connect with real life – people and nature. And in today’s world it’s becoming more and more difficult to disconnect and still be able to function in society. Interesting.

      I understand you don’t agree with my position on eBooks and eReaders, Briane, so we’ll agree to disagree 🙂

      Oh, and I don’t sell any of my books; all of my books are either given to family members, donated to the library or donated to someone through Freecycle. I have no issue with spending $20 on a book because I’m getting something of value and I’m helping support the person (the writer) who gave me that opportunity to learn, explore, imagine, etc.

  6. I have read the article and your comments, and I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying.

    I work in an office 8 hours a day, I write novels and short stories in my spare time, I update my blog and read others, and at the end of the day being able to open a book and actually sit on the sofa with something real, something physical to entertain me helps me to relax and forget about my computer dominated life. These devices may be around, but I cannot see them ever overtaking real books. They may come close but I think in the long run the physical written word is mightier than the digital sword that is threatenig to kill it.

    • Hi Alex! Thanks for stopping by and leaving your two cents. It’s nice to know I’m not alone 🙂

      For all you eBook lovers: Don’t get me wrong, I think eReaders and other “cool” techie devices are fun, useful and convenient, but, as with everything in life, there should be a balance. Why are people so gung-ho to eliminate print books and traditional publishing? There’s always a reason. I wonder, is it purely a money thing? And I won’t even get started on what people will sacrifice in the name of modern conveniences.

  7. This is a very interesting point of view. Your blog is refreshing, but I wish one could find more content, though. I am looking forward to reading more from you. Keep up the good work. thanks.

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