When I won a Sony Digital Reader from CBC last year, the first thing I did was take all my books, magazines, and newspapers to the street, gathered them in a pile, and burned them. I vowed I would never read another word that was not printed electronically.
Prior to this, so in love was I with my paper books that I simply stopped reading things on the computer or my iPod Touch. If it’s printed electronically, it will not offer me the tactile sensation of true book reading. This is why I ignore those electronic traffic circulation signs on Cote-de-Liesse.
Of course, neither of those things are true. A humourous essay by Ross Duncan on globeandmail.com discusses his recent conversion to e-books and his guilty feelings over abandoning paper. What I find troubling is this idea that you have to choose. You see people complaining that they’d never allow one in their home (and one person in the comments section oddly claiming it will lead to literacy being restricted to the upper classes) and others claiming they read exclusively on their iPad.
I see it differently. I think e-readers will complement paper books, not replace them. Not entirely. The benefits of e-books for people who read while travelling are obvious as it saves valuable carry-on luggage space. I also think it solves certain issues when it comes to your living space, particularly is space is at a premium or you’re just in the mood to un-clutter. CBC-Radio One’s the Sunday Edition tackled this this past weekend with a panel consisting of a book seller, an author, and a cultural reporter who happened to be host Michael Enright’s cousin. One of the panelists helpfully compared those who toss out books they’ll never read again or probably didn’t like much in the first place to Nazi book burners.
But again, the argument they made went almost entirely on the side of paper books. If the panel was made up of people who weren’t in the cultural community, it may have been a different discussion.
While I enjoy my e-reader, if I hadn’t won the one I have, it would have been a long time before I bought one of my own. I also probably wouldn’t have purchased one without Wi-Fi. Unlike an iPad, it’s a single purpose device which is a weakness but also a strength as it keeps the distractions to a minimum. There are also DRM issues with e-books.
I don’t see paper books going away anytime soon. Certainly, children’s books will continue to be produced. Kids like to touch their books and the screen isn’t going to replace that. I always have bookshelves in my apartment. They’ll just be more streamlined, holding only the books that mean something to me. So I’ll continue to buy both.