Books vs E-Readers

Have you ever noticed that books all, for the most part, have the same smell? When you walk into a modern shop the scent is that of new pages. Fresh. Where glossy and matte pages alike wait to be read for the first time. It’s in these establishments where new books are released, parties are hosted and coffee is brewed.

Let’s travel down the beaten side street to a place called…well…the name wore off the sign years ago but everybody local still knows the name. A bell tingles above as another shopper exits, book in hand, and holds the door open for you. You thank them as you cross the threshold and inhale deeply, letting the thick wooden door behind you click shut.

With shelves climbing to the ceiling you are transported to another dimension, one where adventure is itching to happen. This place doesn’t sell digital media, vinyls or 8 tracks. There’s no electronic card catalogue and the labels on the spines are from a sticker pricing gun. This is more like it. That smell reminds you of your grandmother’s bookshelf that housed copies from the 1970s. Their bindings are weak but your grandma still lets you read the one about the Loch Ness Monster for the twentieth time. You bring the book to your nose and inhale, bringing you back to the shop you’re in now. The clerk asks if you’re looking for anything in particular. “Not today,” you reply. You’re just looking. Who knows what you may find. She nods, understanding, and goes back to her own read.

Enter in digital media.

Libraries have always been supported by communities as places to gsther, learn and preserve history. Without libraries, or museums for that matter, it is feasible that much knowledge would have been lost. Without ink and parchment there would have not been the movable type. Without the movable type there would have not been the printing press. From there we gained mailing services, mechanical computers, and every invention in between that led to the modern day tablet.

In the 1930s a man by the name of Bob Brown dreamt up the concept of electronic books. He dubbed the device:

A machine that will allow us to keep up with the vast volume of print available today and be optically pleasing  (Bob Brown, ‘The Readies’)

And boy did we deliver…seventy years later. We have the Kindle by Amazon, the Sony e-reader, the Kobo, the Nook and more. Let’s not forget the countless apps that enables amateur writers to showcase their own writing and read others as well.

As a pre-teen I remember worrying that there wouldn’t be any pages to turn because I did not like the idea of an e-reader. I remember thinking it was silly for Barnes N Noble to advertise something like the Nook in a place that sold actual books. What is also interesting to note is I was (and still am) fully in support of a world where Star Trek could one day exist. Where all information was stored for instant access inside data cores. So you would think that I would have been open to the idea of having something like that to carry with me.

You are wrong. I was afraid that bookstores would disappear forever and I, without a doubt did not want to contribute to that. While some larger book chains have been downsizing printed books are not disappearing as quickly as I feared. Authors and readers who grew up like I did still love the feeling of a cover beneath our fingers. But, in this digital age, there are a few advantages to having electronic books available. Let’s take a look at a few of them now:

1. Convenience. So you finally booked that summer flight to Florida beach for R&R and you’re preparing to pack. What is spread out on the bed before you? Clothes? Check. Toiletries? Check. Travel info? Check. Books? All the ones you have chosen will cause your bag to go over the alotted weight limit. What do you do? You know you can easily go through one or two a day. Seven days. Seven books. Not enough space. Enter in the e-reader. Once you purchase a book and save it to your device, it is yours to keep. You can reread it like any physical book because you paid for it. And because you know you have at least two new reads ready to go you toss it in your purse instead.

Disadvantage: Making sure to remember the power cable.

2. Encouragement. For most bookworms it is almost unfathomable to hear someone comment that they don’t read. Don’t READ?! How is that even possible?! Illiteracy still exists in the United States amongst all the age groups. And there are others who know how to read who just choose not to. The e-readers, especially those with access to more apps, I feel greatly encourages them to think about trying the reader app out. Instant access to all levels of books and material supports readers and authors alike, and maybe if they begin to enjoy ebooks they will come to support libraries as well.

3. Innovation. A perfect example of ebook innovation comes from the recent reestablishment of Reading Rainbow (no, this blog is not sponsored by then whatsoever. They are just a great, current example of modern technology). From 1983 to 2006, Reading Rainbow opened the world of imagination to generations of young minds. I was greatly amused as a child that LeVar Burton taught us about books by day and repaired starships as Geordi LaForge by night on The Next Generation. There had always been the hope that Reading Rainbow would return but instead we got something even better. LeVar and the R.R team began a Kickstarter campaign to begin a new concept – online learning tools to teach a new generation to love reading. Without platforms such as tablets and e-readers, and without the fervent enthusiasm of the donors to support them, Reading Rainbow would have remained a thing of the past. It is encouraging, interactive and, as with any learning tool, constantly changing.

4. Library Supported. Not only is there the above example of reading apps, many libraries also have e-books available for borrowing add well. All you need is a library card, an account through their website and an app that supports their format. Many moms I know love the ease of it, especially when it is not always convenient to get to a physical library.

Doesn’t there seem to be an awful lot of pros to this “debate” in favor of e-readers? When you look at the overall picture, e-readers and physical Books have formed a symbiotic relationship:

Symbiosis: noun, biology. interaction between two different organisims living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both. a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups.

While the definition of symbiosis is technically of a scientific nature it can be applied to the world of words as well. In this ever-changinf age of technological advancement it was inevitable that someone would bring Bob Brown’s prediction to reality. A true reader will be able to appreciate both forms of literature.

While I  still prefer connecting worth other readers in the physical realm of books, I do enjoy being able to find a series or author online that I otherwise would never have known. You can find readers everywhwre. You can find authors, bookstores, librarians, historians, preservationists…everywhere. even though e-readers don’t “smell” like a bookstore, don’t immediately dismiss such a useful tool without trying it first. You may surprise yourself. Just find the best fit for you. 

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