Too Young for Paper?

by Melissa Minners

                The other day, I was reading a post in which someone was ranting about unwanted magazines sent them through the mail.  It wasn’t the fact that the person was ranting about unwanted magazines – I get a ton of magazines I never wanted from companies I’ve donated to or affiliated with things I have purchased or events I have attended, so I get the annoyance factor.  The thing that got me was the comment about not being 90-years-old and therefore receiving whatever magazines they wanted to read on an e-reader.  Why is it that people engrossed in the digital media age think that those who like to actually read a book, magazine or newspaper that is actually made from paper are old geezers?

                Before the digital age, there was paper.  Before there was paper, there were stone and hides.  I suppose those who went to paper thought those who still wrote things on stone and hide were old geezers as well.  After all, stone took up a lot of space…and it took a lot of time to chisel stuff into the stone, so it makes sense to stop the stone storytelling.  And paper is a lot thinner than hide, so it takes up less space.  So, yeah, let’s get rid of hide and stone and tell those fossils who don’t like it to go home, right?

                But there are more practical reasons to like paper books over digital ones.  I happen to like reading actual books.  I like the smell of the paper and the feel of it.  I like actually turning the pages – sure, there are e-readers that simulate this, but it’s not the same.  I like that I can read anywhere without worrying if there is too much light or not enough light.  I don’t have to worry about charging my book to be able to read it either – it’s always ready.

                Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t advantages to having an e-reader – I have one, so I won’t be a hypocrite and say that there aren’t any.  For one thing, I can download heavy tomes – novels that may be over 500 pages or lengthy non-fiction books that I really can’t carry around everywhere.  I use my e-reader for this very website, in fact, downloading books for review – books I might not otherwise have purchased.  It allows me to have less clutter, by downloading books I may want to read, but may not want to keep.  For some, e-readers are great because they have that audible book feature – you can hear someone read the book to you.  While that may be great for some, I haven’t wanted anyone to read me a story since I was a child.

                And yet, there are clear disadvantages to owning an e-reader.  For one thing, you have to keep it charged.  Most e-readers hold their charges for a while, but you have to keep track of that charge or you will be left in the middle of a page with a message saying your battery life has run out…usually right in the middle of a great readable moment in the book.  Depending on the e-reader, light may be a factor.  I have a grey-scale e-reader which is great in extreme sunlight, but not so much in lower light.  Paperwhite readers are great in low light, but painful on the eyes in better light.  If you drop a book, it may get a ding or two…a page may rip…but it won’t smash to pieces like e-readers can (even while in protective cases). 

When an e-reader goes out of fashion or is no longer being produced, what happens to all of the digital content you downloaded.  If you’re lucky, the new e-reader will be compatible, but what if it isn’t.  Did you just want to read that book once?  Another issue?  Well, some of the magazines I have downloaded look funky on the e-reader.  Pictures aren’t where they are supposed to be.  Asides are in between whole articles, throwing off the pace of the work.  Some books are a little off as well.

I suppose it all boils down to preference, but if we have another storm like Sandy or an electrical grid failure on the East Coast again, I know one thing:  While others are cursing their low battery indicators and wondering what they will do with themselves while the power is out, I’ll be curled up with a good paper book and maybe a candle if the light is bad.  Does that make me a fossil or just someone with enough common sense to embrace the new technology as well as enjoy the old?

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