As we head into the holidays, some of you may be thinking about e-readers. Thinking about giving one? Asking for one? Still on the fence? Here are a few recent articles about e-readers to get you thinking.
You know by now I’m an avid e-reader. My Kindle is all my favorite books rolled into one, a trusty companion. But I’m a little on the extreme side.
Last month, this article in Slate got my blood boiling. It tries, in a long over-blown way, to argue that e-reading isn’t really reading, because “How we hold our reading materials, how we look at them, navigate them, take notes on them, share them, play with them, even where we read them—these are the categories that have mattered most to us as readers throughout the long and varied history of reading.”
When you think about what it means to read, how can e-reading not be reading? Here’s what reading is: it’s your eyes looking rows of letters and your brain turning those letters into sounds and sounds into meaning. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. So what part of e-reading is different from paper book reading? Does turning a page mean you’re reading? Breaking a spine? To me it’s the letters and words that count.
Granted, children’s books are different. For young kids, the experience of holding a book, turning pages, looking at illustrations, is a critical part of reading. At work we call that pre-reading — did you know an infant chewing on a book corner is actually developing pre-reading skills? Absolutely. I wouldn’t trade paper children’s books for anything. But I reject the idea that it’s the same for adults.
On a similar side of things, I wanted to share a nicely written post by fellow blogger Giraffe Days about her experiences with e-reading. Reading on the e-reader doesn’t work for her, and it makes me realize how individual each reader’s experience is. We all have different things about books that we love, and if for you it’s the feel of turning pages and the dusty smell of paper and ink, that’s great. For me, after reading hundreds of books on my Kindle in the last three years, I have to say that the e-reader lets me read more and read better. But, as I’ve said many times, that’s because most of my reading happens standing up on trains and buses and planes, and e-reading has made my reading life a hundred times easier. I also like the features that make me a better reader, like the ability to highlight, bookmark and search. And the Kindle lets me be a better consumer, because I can read sample chapters before I buy.
I do think the kind of e-reader you use matters, and it matters how, where, and when you read. I don’t want to read on an IPad and I don’t care for reading on my Kindle Fire. Buttons or touch screen? E-ink or backlit? Large or small? Dedicated reader or multi-use device? All of those options impact your reading experience. Just don’t tell me it isn’t reading.
A recent NPR article cited by Biblibio tells another story about e-reading and it’s one that I agree with. We’re reading more, not less, and e-readers aren’t replacing books, just adding to our options.
I’m not here to say anyone should buy an e-reader. It’s just that there’s an e-phobia out there I find hard to understand. I don’t think e-readers are out to destroy the printed word. And from what I hear, indie bookstores in this country are still doing well, in some cases even thriving because of the demise of the big box bookstore.
If an e-reader isn’t the reading experience you want, that’s great. We can all co-exist. But an article like the one in Slate that tells me I’m not really reading, when I’ve read more literature in the last three years than I have in the last fifteen? Now you’ve gone too far.
So, happy holidays and to each his own on the e-reader question. If you’re hoping for one, good luck. I suspect this is the last year we’ll debate whether e-reading is really reading — but then again I thought we’d all be driving around in airships by now.