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Monday, November 8, 2010

E-books, Kindles and Nooks

I am curious what people have to say about them.

The whole e-book things has pretty much bewildered me. Here you have a more or less perfect object--a book--which holds an astonishing amount of information in a compact form, which is portable and easy to read, required no batteries or power source, and best of all will still work perfectly when you take it off the shelf 20 years from now. I just haven't seen the need for an electronic version, myself. I've thought the whole e-book phenomenon is an elaborate way to get suckers to pay for something that they already have, and then force them to upgrade every 18 months or so.

Now I'm less sure of this. I have students--creative writing students, who read a lot and think about stories and so forth--who love e-books. They tell me they're convenient and portable and enable the user to cart around dozens or hundreds of titles at once. They're better for the environment because they don't consume trees (hmm, but they consume power, and those computer factories aren't exactly enviro-friendly, and neither are the old Kindles chucked into landfills).

Then there was this interesting article on PopMatters about it all:

So I'm wondering, am I just being a conservative reactionary loser? (Wouldn't be the first time.) The kind of guy who starts every second sentence with, "When I was your age..." ? After all, I think comic books are a legitimate narrative art form--something that would have gotten me laughed out of Oberlin 25 years ago. Am I making the mistake with e-books that I accuse other people of making with comics? Confusing the form with the content?

Or to put it another way, am I confusing the physical artefact of the book itself with the important stuff, which is the story contained within the book? Is Beowulf just as good on a Kindle?

I have a hard time believing it, but I'm less certain than I used to be. I used to roll my eyes about computers too, back in 1995 or so. And cell phones. And Walkmans. (Remember them?) I'm seeing a trend here. I hardly touch my cell phone, but sheesh, I'm on my laptap hours every day.

Somebody--set me straight here. Are e-books just as good as the "real" thing? Or does something get lost in the digital, plasticized, software-upgraded translation?

1 comment:

Hanale said...

I'm beginning to think E-books will be my new best friend! As a student I do a lot of textbook reading and what i hate the most is having to lug around textbooks that are twice as thick as phone books and 3x heavy. If only all textbooks could be programmed into e-books, can you imagine all the weight lifted off my shoulders? literally? i would imagine the cost of downloading would be far cheaper than buying an actual text too. 1 thing i hate is to have profs make it a mandatory thing to buy a certain text and then use only 1 or 2 ch's from it. geez, couldn't you just give us handouts? or better yet, profs who make you buy the darn thing, "assign" readings from it and then have all his tests be based on his own notes, not from the text! Ahem, thanks a lot SOC prof......what a waste of my $! overall i think e-books are good for textbooks, rec books and magazines. HOWEVER i dont think i will ever get used to reading a newspaper ini e-book format. There's nothing better than reading the paper through flipping the pages and feeling and hearing the crispness of a newspaper. That, i think, should never ever be replaced!