E-Readers. Get used to it.

Remember when film cameras were being replaced with digital cameras? I distinctly recall feeling super uncomfortable about that. I’d had digital cameras in my house since they started (my mom worked for a dot-com before the bubble burst). Our first one was a bulky device that took giant photos and saved them directly to a floppy disc that I could then insert into my computer to upload six photos, which took twenty minutes. The idea that those intangible cumbersome ideas of pictures would replace the thrill of pointing, clicking and waiting for your film to develop was such a bummer.

That sickening bout of nostalgia was quickly relieved, however, as cameras got better rapidly and the making and sharing of photography became practically free. I can’t imagine that there are any practically minded people out there that are still mourning the reign of the film camera.

***Remember: there will always be purists and nothing is ever really gone forever.

Many things have gone this way and it was hard for us because our relationships with these things are romantic. Think of the writer at his typewriter on that dark and stormy night, the handsome father in the great suit filming his family with a 8mm camera, writing a letter and getting a letter in the mail, or leaving the house and not being contactable until you came back (oh, god – if only!).

Or, you could consider this: learning how to actually type and fix mistakes on a typewriter, how much money it cost that well-dressed father to develop and screen those home movies, standing in line at the post office, not being able to get directions, research things on the fly, get email, texts, calls, Skype, facetime, access calendars, calculators, magazines – consider a life without a device that allows you to leave your desk, house or country and still be connected if you must be (and, yes, some people must be – people who have jobs – I wouldn’t know first hand, but I am trying to be compassionate).

Time marches on and often it marches right over your romantic sensibilities.

The thing about books is, they are beautiful. Books, in all of their forms: hardcover, paper back, old, new, written in, or clean are a treasure. Books smell good and feel nice. Every time I pick up a book I get feelings of infinite possibility and hope. When I was twelve I went into a minor depression when I realized that I would never be able to read all the books in the world and that I would have to choose carefully. I didn’t read for a month for all the pressure I felt to really make it count.

In short: I love books. I do. And that is why I am so smitten by my classy little e-reader. Because, for all that I adore about books, they are expensive, heavy, many (to say the least), don’t travel well and they aren’t the best format for some genres.

The thing I feared most about my move to an e-reader was the loss of that satisfaction of seeing a book and completing it – holding it in your hands afterwards and recalling what the journey was like. However, the e-reader totally held up in the face of this fear. What happened was, the e-reader started to feel like my way into the books – my doorway or portal. The physical form of the reader doesn’t change with the books and so, instead of feeling nostalgia for the old book format, I’ve grown creepy close to my KOBO.

It stores all the books I have read, and the notes I made about them. It has a built-in dictionary, page zoom, a page counter and a percentage reader. It even has a feature that congratulates you for reading. It searches for books that I might like (this feature actually sort-of sucks), and you can reach into the Internet at anytime and grab a book for half as many dollars as you would pay for a physical copy. And these are still the early stages of e-reading. It can only go up from here.

There are actually things about the e-readers that I think are so much better than books, I feel like someone ought to mention them on the internet. For one thing, my eyes don’t get tired when I am reading anymore because I have control over the font size. I can carry thousands of books with me at anytime. Plus, I can still share and lend with friends like a regular book.

Until the e-reader, short stories were sort of an enthusiast sport to me. I figure people who write short stories, read them – maybe along with people in doctor’s office waiting rooms (maybe some other people, I don’t know), but now short stories are flying all over the internet. I, for one, have downloaded and read an unprecedented amount of short fiction from online Lit mags since the purchase of my e-reader.

Another thing is the Graphic Novel. While it requires a more sophisticated e-reader or tablet, Graphic novels have been seriously limited by print. Print versions of graphic work are huge, expensive and too consumable to be sustainable. If you read print Graphica (I may have made this word up or am using it incorrectly), that is all you can afford to read.

E-readers bridge that gap and allow authors/artists to produce more and people to access more of it. I have always wanted to read more Graphica and now I will.

So, I know some of you are cringing in response to the highly unromantic idea of an e-reader — I suggest you read Diamond Age to help with your conceptual issues and get on board. Seriously, the future is neat.


5 thoughts on “E-Readers. Get used to it.

  1. There is room for both I think. What is really fun is reading a really think book on an e-reader, getting halfway through and then getting a print version and seeing how far you’ve come. Then moving back and forth between both. I am doing this with The Brothers Karamazov and find I am making progress, whereas before I would get overwhelmed with the sheer girth of the thing and the terrible letting and kerning that exists in nearly all print editions of the book.

    Ambivalence! A poem lamenting the death of the book published online.


    1. Jennifer Zilm, did you write that poem? It is fantastic! I love it. Such atmosphere! Also, yeah, both is good. That’s why I gave a shout out to the purists. They are super helpful and will always exist.

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