Electronic Books: Kindling an Interest In The Written Word or Ruining The Romance of Reading?

Adore sipping cocoa by a fireplace on chilly nights, immersed in the latest Oprah Book Club must-read? Love lounging poolside in July, Piña Colada in one hand, People Magazine in the other? Heart skip a beat when you last stumbled upon a used bookstore with a cute Nietzsche-reading hipster behind the register? (OK maybe just me…). You fellow bibliophiles out there know there’s an undeniable romance to the act of reading. But if you’re anything like me, you’ve entertained a thought or two about jumping on the new E-reading bandwagon. Well before you drop $150 on the latest Kindle or iPad, or declare yourself permanently anti-Nook, read on as I weigh the main pros and cons of this new literary phenomenon!

The benefits of electronic reading devices appear limitless: Portable access to thousands of books, articles, magazines, and blogs (How fast can you say lighter luggage?); Popular titles at a 10-30% discount; The ability to conduct quick full-text searches in a single book or whole library; Text-to-speech capabilities that not only aid the visually impaired, but also enable listening and studying behind the wheel (potentially further hindering your ability to text and drive…Officer Fred if you’re reading this, I’m totally kidding!); Inexpensive distribution of corrected and updated versions of textbooks (increasing college students’ monthly booze budgets…wait did I just write that?); And finally, file backup capability, which assists the disorganized and accident-prone (Spilled that Piña Colada? House burned down from careless fireplace reading? Misplaced your Nook in, well, a nook? Never fear. Your books are safe—no burnt or soggy pages!)

But before you book it (hah!) to the nearest Barns and Noble, there are several drawbacks to E-reading worth considering. Not all content is currently available in electronic form; Imperfect screen resolution and battery requirements can be irritating (Forgot to pack those Double A’s for you’re red eye to London? Wouldn’t want to be you!); You can’t smell and touch an iPad like you can a real book (That sounded far less creepy in my head…). Nooks make for sub-par living room décor and won’t impress like rows of weathered 1st editions—just ask Blue Water designer, Jen, who calls her book shelf a “trophy case”; And then there’s the oft-repeated “ugly” factor. As Michael Tamblyn, CEO of BookNet, puts it, “No one holding a Kindle at Starbucks has ever been asked for his or her phone number,”(Next time I want a very overpriced *ahem* VANILLA latte, I’ll test and report back!).

So will electronic devices rip the romance right out of reading, or will book-lovers take to Nooks like Hollywood to teen Vampires? For now, the jury’s still out. But whether you end up Team Book or Team Nook, I hope I’ve kindled your interest (couldn’t resist) in another fascinating way technology has merged with one of life’s greatest pleasures: Reading! See you at the bookshop around the corner—and hipster boy, you know who you are…

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4 thoughts on “Electronic Books: Kindling an Interest In The Written Word or Ruining The Romance of Reading?

  1. Even though I feel guilty about all the paper required, I don't think I will ever stop buying actual books. I love having something to put on a bookshelf – it is like a small accomplishment that you get to display.

  2. Rebecca, I loved this post! I feel like you perfectly summed up my emotions regarding E-books. I for one know I will never switch to E-books. I get too big of a thrill by the crinkling sound a page makes when it's being turned…..

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