Let me say right at the outset that I am thrilled when I hear that more people are reading in 2011 than in 2009, thanks in large part to e readers. Or that other folks are avoiding shin splints by not having to lug bagfuls of books on the plane. Or even that person X just finds reading on her device a better experience than flipping pages ever was.
If you’re reading, that’s great, and let’s talk story–not medium.
I am a live and let live kind of person. I believe that there are shades of gray and nuance to most things, and that wisdom is seldom found at the poles. It does take all kinds, and I’m so glad for all the kinds there are.
Ahem. All that said.
I love books. And bookstores as most of you know. I believe there are unique pleasures to be found with both of these things. A world without print books and bookstores would for me be a tiny apocalypse.
Maybe a not so tiny one.
I’m happy if people love their Kindles, but I’m less happy when they refer to the alternative as DTBs (I happen to think the jury is still out on whether cutting down trees/fossil fuel-heavy distribution is less green than making ever updateable battery-dependent electronic devices) or when people make the claim that 30 years from now books will be to e readers as horse & buggies were to cars in 1930.
Maybe that will turn out to be so [shrieking as I glimpse the apocalypse]. I don’t claim to have any great predictive powers.
But maybe alongside the convenience, cost-saving, and instantaneous benefits of e readers, people will rediscover a deep and abiding love for the medium of page turning and paper-sniffing and the eye-bending and tactile experience that a truly gorgeous cover can deliver.
Is the horse and buggy the right analogy?
Let me present another one.
In the 1950s we were moving into a whole new era of food. Better living through chemistry. (As a tangent, remember ChemLawn? Can you imagine a world where the pairing of those two words made the customer say, I want to pour me some of that on my lawn?) People, propelled in no small part by the margarine council or the transfats council or whatever it was, started proponing the health benefits of margarine over butter.
Flash forward half a century and we’re just beginning to understand that cholesterol actually doesn’t get lower when we eat saturated soybean oil–and even that cholesterol as we measure it today is only arguably responsible for heart disease. (Give it 10 more years. You’ll see).
But I’m not suggesting people will figure out that e readers actually cause cancer. Remember? I’m happy to have both, or some future, as yet unknown alternative.
What I’m trying to say is that even when margarine appeared to be coming in strong, people still ate butter. We didn’t have to kill all the cows. The butter could be churned and sold to those who wanted it, and when the slow food movement began, we could be offered even more varietals of butter than we once ever conceived of.
Maybe there will be a slow reading movement one day.
Or maybe we can all just figure out that there’s room for both camps and what we find in either is a great love of story.
I take that horse and buggy analogy and raise it…one pat of butter.