By Caity Tremblay
Technology is redefining what it means to communicate. Reading a book is a physical and mental experience, an experience uniquely human, but the tradition of reading in a book is now contending with a new cyber-competitor. Will Amazon’s launch of an e-book reader, the Kindle, replace the classical form of a book? Should it?
There is a conceptual dichotomy between the e-book and a physical book, a division more feeling than fact. Physical books have a presence that a machine cannot replicate, like the sense of progress as one turns page after page.
Reading is a kinesthetic experience. Reading a Kindle instead of a book is like taking vitamin tablets versus eating an apple. They might technically both contain the same vitamins, but taking the tablets one loses the experience.
Some try to argue that making books wastes paper, so the Kindle will be more efficient. Although only a small portion of books are currently printed on recycled paper, books themselves are recyclable as well as long-lasting. Electronics, on the other hand, have a transient appeal and a deadly impact on the environment.
What will happen when Amazon comes out with a new, fancier version of the Kindle, or when the current Kindles start breaking? Suddenly a practice that was utterly beneficial — reading — is adding to the heaps of electronic garbage, most of which ends up in land fills or incinerators, leaking toxins into the air, water, and land.
Despite its physical estrangement and environmental impact, the Kindle can be convenient. Yet can a modestly improved convenience really balance the loss of experience?
Ultimately, the Kindle is good for air-plane reading. Good, that is, when there are no libraries or affordable bookstores available and one wants to read a book of little consequence. But if one wants to really experience a book, to feel the rough texture of the page and the crisp smell of ink, to scribble notes in the margins and run fingers along the creased, well-loved binding — why then, only a real book will do.
By Luther Cenci
What is a book? On its face, a book is a bound series of papers carrying lines of printed text. However, anyone who has found himself woven into a story’s tapestry can say that a book is much more than that, which is why the Kindle e-book reader is such a brilliant invention.
“Whoa,” you might be saying. “But I thought that the Kindle was out to replace books!” It is. “But isn’t the Kindle putting brick-and-mortar bookstores out of business?” It is. “But isn’t reading on a screen different than reading a page?” It is. “So how can the Kindle ever capture the feel of turning a printed page?” It can’t.
See, all those memorable sensations associated with a real book- pacing the bookstore, turning just one more page, tucking the dust jacket into the book to mark your place — all are distractions from what you are really supposed to be doing, which is reading.
The Kindle does its best to eliminate all the hassle standing between the reader and the reading material. The bookstore doesn’t have the title you are looking for? The Kindle Store has over 800,000 copyrighted titles, each of which can be read within 60 seconds.
Too broke to buy a book? Over 2.5 million out-of-copyright works are available for free online, from Aristotle to Austen. Crick in your back from trying to find a good position to read lying down? The Kindle is lighter than most paperbacks and its single screen eliminates the need to switch viewing angles between pages.
Of course, there are still plenty of reasons to get a real book. If you need to proclaim your erudition by waving a copy of Paradise Lost or The Fountainhead, the Kindle does not yet have a “brag” function. When it comes to million-color coffee table books, print is still king.
Despite their many valid points, the book-obsessed still carry a Luddite aspect. No doubt there were identical people mourning the demise of epic poetry, once humans discovered that an alphabet was a better way of recording the past than rhyme and invocations of muses, or moping over losing the smell of papyrus once scrolls were replaced by books. They are making the age old mistake of judging a book by its cover.