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Editor’s note: This opinion is part of a point/counterpoint opinion feature about e-readers. Read the counterpoint, “Pages are for squares,” by CU Independent Social Media Editor Zack Shapiro.
I have a very serious problem with technology.
Anyone who knows me well is fully conscious of my immense phobia of robots, artificial intelligence, biological warfare, robotic surgery…and the list goes on.
My dear friends constantly remind me that this fear is entirely ridiculous; I have a laptop and an iPhone, which is extremely contradictory. This I can’t deny. I’m a hypocrite and I admit it.
There is one thing, however, that I will never own. The Devil’s plaything, Hell on Earth, humanity’s demise, better known under the alias “electronic book reader.”
With the birth of Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes and Noble’s nook and Sony’s Reader the world has turned its attention away from paper and ink to the ever-present digital screen. Wednesday marked the reveal of the iPad which, while more than just an e-reader, has the capability to display electronic books, organizing them using a fake bookshelf and actual covers of the print editions.
Apple has gone one step further than just a digital book on an electronic screen; they are trying to present the traditional literature format.
I am simultaneously heartbroken and livid over these developments. As a double-major in English literature and journalism, to say I have romantic ideals about books would be an understatement.
I love everything about the book. The feel of the pages as you gently turn them, progressing the story in your mind, the natural way my fingers hold a paperback in one hand, the way I transport myself to another place, and a book’s ability to soothe, inspire, depress or captivate all within a few hundred pages. A book can never hurt you, never fail to distract you and with it you are never alone.
Books are beautiful, not just because of their words, but because of what they represent. Someone felt passionate enough about something to spend months or years trying to put those feelings into a story for others to experience as well. With electronic books you will not lose this aesthetic, that I can admit, but what one will lose is so much more—the history of each individual book.
I love libraries and used bookstores the most because each book has a story greater than the one printed on its pages. Someone else, multiple people even, have held that book too. It’s traveled to and from places only it is aware of, been caressed lovingly by an untold number of hands and treasured in ways that are infinite.
When I pick up a used book—the more worn and musty the better—I always wonder how it has impacted someone else’s life. Did a previous owner cry over these very pages? Was some truth revealed to them with these words? Did someone’s life change because of this text? The mystery of the book lies not only in the unrevealed plot, but in the very binding of it, in the stories of all the other people who have held it in their hands.
Taking away the printed word, as e-readers are attempting to, destroys the culture and ritual of literature. Books were not designed to be for one set of eyes, but were meant to be passed from hand-to-hand. E-readers stop that process.
Costing hundreds of dollars, these readers are geared toward those with a disposable income. What happens if some books become published electronically only for e-readers? Every person unable to afford the reader is denied the literature. Libraries will become archaic and the books inside will be irrelevant to the community at large. Maybe Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” isn’t too far off.
Many point out that my fears are unfettered. They say print books won’t be destroyed for years, certainly not in my lifetime and maybe never.
I don’t care. Just because this future is distant that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to protect it now. I keep books, build my own library, not only so I can enjoy these books in the future, but so I can hand one to my daughter, son, grandchild or friend and tell them, “This was my favorite,” “This one helped me” or “This one meant a lot to me” and have them physically see how treasured and loved every stack of papers has been by my hands.
E-mailing a PDF or texting a link just doesn’t seem quite the same.
Contact CU Independent Breaking News Editor Emily Zarka at Emily.firstname.lastname@example.org.