Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sexy eBooks?

Historically, when something new comes along i.e. fax machines, the internet (thanks again, Al!), iPods, I stand staunchly against it claiming “all is fine as is.”

“I love my bright yellow Sony Discman, thank you very much!”

“I would much rather read an encyclopedia than ‘Google it,’ you flibbertigibbet!”

I remember when everyone was getting excited about email (in my world circa 1997) and I would sniff, “If someone wants to get ahold of me, they can pick up the phone...or write a letter.”

(I was such a romantic back then.)

Deep down it is because all this technology scares me. When I finally gathered the gumption to send an email to Steve, a man I had a crush on, I didn’t even realize you had to send it to an actual “place” ( etc). I just kept typing his name and hitting SEND becoming more furious he wasn’t acknowledging my leap into the virtual world (that he may not have actually liked me was a distant second).

So, when the bud of Electronic Readers blossomed recently, I again, dug in my heels and swore I would never buy one of those stupid devices. Books, REAL books, have been around for thousand of years and they have served us wonderfully.

Then Christmas came and Santa brought me Amazon’s Kindle.

I was equally shamed and embarrassed at my unexpected reaction. Instead of tossing it into the snow in defense of my beloved paper books, it was love.

“She’s so...skinny...and she holds how many books?”

Suddenly, I was a convert. I bought my Kindle a soft-green leather case and a fancy light. I take her with me everywhere. She makes me happy.

When my graduate school friends (especially) found out I had delved into the “other side,” they were surprised, offended and secretly intrigued; I received many off the radar emails inquiring about how fabulous the Kindle really is.

Since my Master’s degree is in Literacy Education, I can imagine the horror of the impending paperless world. But it, like a second season of Jersey Shore, is imminent so we better prepare.

I came up with pros and cons to going paperless, at least as it pertains to Dan Brown novels.

PROS of Electronic Books: They hold more books in their sleek tummies than you could ever fit in your house (without Hoarders knocking on your door); instant gratification--you can download your whims in less than a minute; you aren’t loaning out your favorite books and never getting them back; no rustling pages so you can read Danielle Steel during boring lectures or business meetings; the books are cheaper than buying them hardcover; saves trees; you can read it with one hand and one free for holding your beverage of choice; if you drop it you don’t have to skim through hundreds of pages to find your place potentially ruining the ending; you suddenly have loads of free space on your bedside table and bookshelves for all the crap you buy on eBay.

CONS: You can’t write notes in the margins (one of my habitual tics); it doesn’t light up (Kindle anyway) so I had to spend another $30 on a light; you can’t lend out your favorite books (if you have a Nook you can “lend” one book); they cost as much as a really fabulous pair of Coach shoes or a month’s heating bill (priorities!); can’t see the author’s photo on the back cover (I spend so much time looking at those fabulously contrived pictures mostly imagining what mine would look like); not really bathtub friendly (who doesn’t love to read in the tub--ZAP!); it will put lots of printing presses out of business.

One of the biggest CONS is that eBooks omit the tactile pleasure of holding books in one’s hands. People I spoke with got dreamy-eyed as they recollected long afternoons spent in antique book stores, curled up with the ancient owner’s cat while smelling first editions of The Bell Jar. (People spoke about smelling books more than anything else. Interesting how mildew and mold suddenly become intoxicating when attached to War and Peace.)

In order to get to the bottom of this debate, I called Matt Halpern , a Kindergarten teacher at Windham Primary School.

“With the popularity of eBooks, adults need to remember the needs of the youngest readers. Children need the kinesthetic experience of reading books. So many books for young children include experiences for the hands as well as the eyes,” he says. “Some of the most popular books in my classroom are the pop-up books, where the stories literally come alive in front of the reader’s eyes. Kids just love the feeling of holding a small sturdy book in their hands…it’s a perfect fit.”

If time is a river and books are the boats, there is no reason we can’t make room for a new vessel while still cherishing the wooden ones that got us here.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article! I loved your pros and cons...all of which I agree with! And Matt's quote hit the nail on the head with regard to our younger "Literacy Club" members. Well done my friend!