Honestly– E-Readers are Here, and Does it Matter?

Fire HDKindle

For Christmas of 2010, my wife and I bought each other Amazon Kindles for Christmas. We had a backpacking trip through Europe coming up the next summer, and knew that dragging along a trunk full of books was not feasible. By that time, it was already pretty clear that E-Readers were no fad, but an evolution, and really the only tough choice was Kindle vs. Nook. (We’re both Amazon shoppers, so the Kindle won).

At the time, a debate of old vs. new, tradition vs. innovation, and tangible vs. conceptual was raging in the book world. It’s a familiar debate, and years old already, but essentially, many people worried if E-Readers would supplant paper books, making physical bookshelves akin to vintage vinyl collections– charming and archaic. And there was this very familiar argument:

I don’t care how useful these things are; there’s just nothing like the feel of a book in your hand. I love sitting in a big comfy chair with (insert beverage of choice) on a rainy day, enjoying a favorite read.

Fast-forward to Christmas 2012. Europe was lovely. I read twelve novels while waiting in lines, sitting in hostels on rainy afternoons, riding trains, and a pair of trans-Atlantic flights. The Kindle–the “Must-Have” gift of 2010– is now a dinosaur. There are newer generations, the Fire, and the Fire HD, which Kristin received for Christmas this year. The Nook has undergone similar innovations. We bought my mother, who would apply for Queen of the Luddites as long as the application wasn’t online, a Nook SimpleTouch.

Nook

And on Facebook, I’m still reading the same concerns from non E-book users:

It just won’t be the same as the feel and smell of the paper of a physical book.

Look, I’m rarely the first to jump on a tekkie bandwagon. I probably would’ve held out much longer for the Kindle, if not for the impending travel. But now that I’ve owned one for two years, I must say…

It doesn’t really make that much of a difference!

Maybe if you’re reading a leatherbound Lord of the Rings or The Complete Works of Shakespeare, or a favorite Bible, I could understand. There is a heft to such volumes that makes the reader feel pretty damn literary. But for most reading experiences, it didn’t take long to adapt to the new format and all its advantages.

The only two contentions I had with the Kindle are:

1) It is more difficult to flip through pages and look back at something I’d read earlier.

2) It’s cool to have a bookshelf, because when guests come over and see what you own, it can be a great starter for conversation (and a bit of an ego trip, to tell the truth).

But I’d love to hear a compelling argument or anecdote that illustrates how E-Reading creates an inferior reading experience. Such defenses of paper books stem from nostalgia rather than reason. If it’s “just your personal preference,” cool. But please, let’s not bemoan the downfall of civilization and future generations because reading is being done on screens rather than on paper. Because reading is reading, and as long as it’s occuring, our civilization and future generations have hope.

So on that note, I’m going to go sit in my window chair, listening to the sleet chatter against the window, relaxing with a kitty cat or two and a beverage of choice, while turning the pages on a great novel.

On my Kindle.

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