wilderthan: ((Yuffie) Whoa)
[personal profile] wilderthan
I have a confession to make.

I have, so far in my life, owned two dedicated ereaders and three other devices capable of reading electronic books.

It really irks me that that feels like a confession. It isn't any one post -- some posts critical of ereaders make very good points, for example Seanan McGuire's Across the digital divide -- but the whole culture of sneering at ereaders. Like they're not the "proper" way to read, like a real fan wouldn't use them -- I remember Catherynne Valente saying on twitter (I apologise for linking to something so hideously inaccessible, you might have to highlight her text to read it) that she wouldn't use her Kindle for anything she cares about, and there's always Sherman Alexie's reactions:

Book reading is a tactile process—one can see, feel, smell, hear, and taste a book—but a digital reader is rather sterile. A friend of mine said, “Reading a digital book is like masturbating with a condom on.”


It suddenly strikes me as a funny thing that I've never heard someone speak like this about audiobooks. They're a whole different format, too -- they don't have that new book smell, you can't skim your fingertips over the pages, you can't bend the spine or leave your mark on them.

Anyway. I really just like nifty new technology, and books. That's why I tried out all the apps for ereading I could find on my iPod Touch, and why I bought a Sony Pocket Reader (just before the price sharply fell, naturally, damn it) back in my second year of university. It's why I now own a Kindle. It's convenient for me: I can carry as many books as I like with me when I travel, instead of picking three or four paperbacks and not being able to stuff them all in my backpack (and unfortunately, having finished half of them before I've even arrived at my destination). I can read in bed more comfortably: I wear glasses and don't like to lie on my back, so it used to be awkward.

I just caught myself before beginning an impassioned defence of how I still buy dead tree editions, honest! Because sorry, it's none of your business what edition I buy the damn book in. When I was younger, people would yell at me for buying the mass market paperback because it'd kill the market for hardbacks. It doesn't look to have happened yet, kids.

You are honestly not going to get anywhere by shaming people who like their ereaders. Or being snobby at them. Your shiny hardback with a pristine dustcover, your paperback tattered with the love of fifteen years -- they don't make you better than me.

I mean, look, guys. I'm a synaesthete. I see, feel, smell, hear, and most especially taste books, in ways a non-synaesthete will never understand. I think you're missing out. But I don't pretend people with synaesthesia are the only ones who can "truly" experience a book as it's "meant" to be experienced. (Granted, there's a difference between something hardwired into me and a different format. But the sensory aspect of print books can be compared, I think, to my sensory experience of any format.)

I also have a very personal reason -- another of these arguments from emotion, I'm afraid -- to love ebooks, and that's that I can still share the love of reading with my mother. Without ereaders, she'd be unable to read even books with fairly large print, even with her glasses on. But thanks to the wonders of technology, I can finish a book and tell my mother all about it, without the awkward moment of realising I can't lend her it, because the text is too small.

I also love that I've given my older ereader, the Sony, to my girlfriend, and now I can share more books with her. It was a bit awkward boxing up six or more books to post to Belgium every few months -- the costs really get prohibitive at that point.

But. I don't think anyone needs any special reason. If you've got the spare cash to drop on an ereader, go try one out in the store or borrow one from a friend, and give it a try. Think about it until your next paycheck, and if your gut isn't saying no, go for it. I don't think you'll regret it. (This is exactly the strategy I adopted, anyway, except insert "installment of student loan" for paycheck.)

This isn't a rebuttal of any particular one of the posts out there. I love print books; I love electronic books. I want to talk to people about reading without feeling like I have to hide the fact that I read it on an ereader. It's just one choice of several.

There are, obviously, concerns when it comes to ebooks. Piracy, DRM, proprietary formats, the digital divide... For the most part, these are arguments about the market, about new technology. Stop dragging nostalgia into these arguments and have them cleanly and clearly. If you're talking about your objections to DRM, it isn't about the smell of the pages, it's about ownership of what you read. If you want to save the libraries, your biggest opponent is the recession and budget cuts, not people who are perfectly happy to buy books for their digital device -- they probably weren't going to use the libraries anyway, or if they did, then they probably still will.

And you know, if your emotional connection to print books is so great that you can't give them up, that's great. Nobody is asking you to. I just brought well over a hundred print books to my student house, to make me feel at home, including my battered copy of The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper). I love my Kindle, but I can't give up my collections of the poetry of Pablo Neruda and Dylan Thomas (and get this -- I can't say it enough -- no one is asking me to!). I get it. I really do.

Quit making me feel like I am single-handedly sneaking into your personal libraries and setting them all on fire.
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Eden

October 2013

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