I hate to break the news, but computers and the Internet are not fads. Using one or the other, or both, for reading is not going to go away either, but will likely become only more prevalent throughout society. I say this, with the full knowledge that there was a time in the computer age before Graphical User Interfaces. Once, computers had no pictures or windows at all, and the user had no choice but to read a computer exactly like he or she read a book. Now we can store thousands of books on tablets the size of a folded up newspaper and use touch controls to mimic flipping the pages.
With a push to make even textbooks electronic, why then, are authors some of the most resistant to the change? Writers might be the greatest beneficiaries – after the public, of course – of the easy accessibility to their work. Yet, they are falling over themselves to make bigger and bigger fools of themselves. Recently, Jonathan Franzen, a widely respected novelist and writer for the New Yorker, was quoted by the Telegraph while he spouted absolute absurdities.
Among his assertions, he claimed that paper books were better than e-books because you could spill water on them, and that printed literature was somehow more permanent than electronic literature. As someone who has ruined too many books in the rain and had his favorite, worn copies of books literally fall apart at the seams, I have to shake my head at Mr. Franzen. His comment about The Great Gatsby not needing to be refreshed makes me wonder if he even understands e-ink or the technology options that are out there.
However, I do understand where Mr. Franzen and other authors are coming from. They grew up dreaming about seeing their names in print. I didn’t realize it until I saw my name on the by-line for the first time, but I too had that dream. I imagined my books stacked against each other in a store, and even having a small library of my own. Nothing ostentatious, of course, I wanted a small room, but there would be a ladder that rolled along a rail to reach the highest shelves.
E-books threaten that dream. Making a library full of e-books would be silly – too expensive to buy an e-reader for each individual book, or too unimpressive to fit all the books on a mere handful of e-readers.
However, updating that dream is like updating software – tedious, but in the end you can’t help but be grateful you did it. I updated my dream while I was overseas. My family bought me an e-reader and shipped it to me loaded with ten books. When I could read ten books and keep them forever, I begrudgingly accepted the usefulness of my e-reader. When I finished them and did not have to make room in my luggage for new reading material, I embraced my e-reader like a long-lost love. My dear, and precious books, I will never have to let go of you again!
Well, as long as I don’t get a virus, but then, even printed books have bookworms.
— Photo Flickr/Andrew Mason