One of my co-workers recently came by my office to show off a new gadget. “It’s a Kindle Fire,” he exclaimed. Shining in the bright office light, I could see why it was such an attractive piece of technology – Internet, books, movies, music and more, all in one sleek, smooth tablet.
And while my co-worker was clearly exuberant about his new toy, I didn’t feel much for it.
Don’t get me wrong – like any 20-something, I enjoy modern technology. I have a slew of Apple products (okay, maybe three, but still), and I appreciate cool apps that tell me when the train is arriving, what restaurant will deliver a cheeseburger at midnight, and when my favorite musicians are coming to town.
But the tablet is one gadget that I haven’t given in to purchasing yet. It’s not really the tablet that I have a problem with, or else I wouldn’t have an iPhone, which does just as much, except on a smaller screen. My issue lies with the e-reader.
Whether it is the Kindle or the Nook, all e-readers evoke the same sentiment within me, and that’s discomfort. I admit it – I am uncomfortable with reading books in digital form.
As a writer, I feel a love for words that only other writers and bookworms may relate to. To me, the written word is sacred and the act of writing, almost a holy experience. Think of all your favorite authors or pieces of literature, whether ancient or modern: those books were all born out of nothing. Those writers created masterpieces by filling countless pages with carefully placed letters, words and sentences, each of them playing a specific role and holding a particular place. The meaning and the significance of the work as a whole depended on the placement of each character.
Yep, it’s that serious (for me, at least.) I may have exaggerated a little bit for dramatic effect, but the meaning remains the same. Writing has always been a visceral and physical experience, in addition to emotional. And while we still write on the computer by physically pressing on the keys, we rely on the digital technology to make those letters appear on the screen. A middle man is involved in the craft.
On the typewriter, at least, you were still responsible for the mechanics of placing the words on the page. And there once was a time when people used to dab quills in ink and then place them on paper in order to write, and there was a time even longer ago when you had to carve words into stone tablets.
No, I don’t want to start carving words into stones. Yes, I acknowledge and understand all the limitations with previous forms of written communication. My point is, you used to have to be physically and emotionally involved, truly connected, with the medium in order to write and create words. And with digitization, I am just afraid to feel removed or disconnected from the words that I read or write.
I love folding down my favorite pages on books, or seeing the color of the pages change with age. It makes me feel connected to the history that I share with that book, the same way I feel it when I open up old journals from my teenage years. Why do we like keeping old postcards or letters from loved ones? Because as people, we often connect most to what we can touch, and feel emotions strongest when there is something to physically hold on to.
Overall, I definitely see the benefit of e-readers. They save paper, allow you to read a different book as soon as your mood changes, and let you carry your favorite words with you wherever you go. I will probably end up purchasing one – someday. All I hope is that there won’t be a day soon when physicals books are gone forever.