Wednesday, September 29, 2010

E-Readers: Good or Bad?

Recently, one of my friends wrote her college essay on the evils of the Kindle and other e-readers. Another one of my friends refused to even read it, stating e-readers are the future. Here I attempt to cover the whole argument.

Electronic reading material has covered much ground in recent years, to the point where traditional newspaper companies are worried they may eventually stop printing altogether. E-readers specifically are taking the physical, page-by-page book that almost every American has held at least once and turning it into a digital device, tantamount to how letters were transformed into email. Many are critical of this shift in paradigm, claiming the new generation is too connected and attached to technology. On the other hand, many welcome it with open arms, awaiting what the next breakthrough in electronic engineering will be. Both sides have their own arguments, and neither is fundamentally correct, but one thing is for sure: e-readers are not going away, and the consequences of their existence have only begun to make their presence felt.

There are numerous reasons why an e-reader evolution might become a handicap on our society. The most cited reason is the removal of textile and kinesthetic characteristics associated with the traditional book. E-readers do not give that turn-the-page feel, nor do you get the smell of ink or the feeling of breaking in a brand new binding. While all of these features may seem trivial, it is such features that entice children into reading in the first place, and without it I would not be surprised if, though I cannot cite specific scientific evidence, less and less children find joy in reading as more e-readers are sold. Another similar problem with e-readers is the ability to lend books. This social interaction that is vital for book lovers is forbidden with e-readers, for obvious reasons. And not to mention the fact that e-readers are not exactly biodegradable as books are.

However, there are many other good reasons to get an e-reader. For one, people who get e-readers read more books. It is much easier to purchase books and even easier to carry them around, and this encourages people to read more. If that's not a clear cut reason to get an e-reader than I don't know what is. Furthermore, though this is in direct conflict with what I said before, e-books may also cause more children to read, since the kids of this generation are obsessed with technology and everything related to it. And to take a venture to the other side of the publishing process, it is much easier for authors to get published with e-books, since no money is spent on printing. And all of these advantages have only to do with personal reading. The average e-reader owner would also be able to carry a number of other texts, all without additional weight. This means students can carry their textbooks without weighing down their backpacks, teachers can instantly refer to textbooks without searching through a library of text, and professionals can refer to handbooks and reference manuals whenever necessary during the work day. It should also be noted that e-readers are not bad for your eyes, that is simply a myth.

E-readers have their advantages and disadvantages, similar to almost any controversial product that has been released in previous years. Personally, never having loved the textile feel of books like others do, I like the e-reader revolution. More people read more books, and you have an entire library at your fingertips. Furthermore, I cannot tell you how many times I looked for the Find button while reading a book. However, the anti-e-readers still have their case. Who will win the battle? We cannot say for sure, but e-readers are probably not disappearing anytime soon, especially with all the money booksellers are putting behind it. Now we just sit back and wait: is the pen mightier than the e-reader?

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