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Stick It Up Your Nook

June 23, 2010
tags: ,

I read a blog post recently extolling the virtues of the new e-reader technology. It was an eloquent post with strong arguments as to why the e-reader is every bit as good as a book, if not better. Just to show you all how well-structured the arguments were, here’s a link.

I totally disagree with the post. I hate the Nook, the Kindle, and every other e-reader out there (see, I don’t discriminate). Unfortunately, unlike my fellow blogger who has not one, but many good REASONS why the e-reader is awesome, I can’t think of a single valid reason for my hatred (except that maybe, due to my tendency to break small electronic things by sitting on them, the e-reader is probably not for me). (Actually, I’ve never broken any electronic device by sitting on it, but I did break my iPod nano ear buds by angrily throwing my duffel bag against the wall on the train when I learned that we were stuck at Southeast for an extra hour due to a signaling malfunction, but that doesn’t sound as funny.) (Ear buds are magnetic inside!)

"Personal Access Display Device? That's not catchy...call it a Kindle."

Anyway, my love of parentheses aside, I’ve been trying to cook up a nice, logical response to the “e-reader is awesome” argument for a month now. And I’ve got nothing. Is the e-reader a compact device that carries multiple texts, perfect for travel? Yes, it sure is. Is it a triumph of design? Yes, it is a sleek, real-life replica of a Star Trek PADD. Is it a great boon to people who need large print text? Sure.  Am I afraid of change? Apparently.

So forget logic. I hate those stupid things. Why? Well, if I accidentally spill marinara sauce on a book, or leave it wedged between the cushions of a seat somewhere (the book, not the pasta sauce), I’m out maybe 25 bucks.  The cheapest unadorned Nook is about $150, and the Kindle runs between about $200 and $400, depending on what size you buy. This seems like it supports my argument that e-readers are NOT awesome, right? Except not. Because an e-reader is not ONE book, it’s hundreds of them. And hundreds of actual, factual books would probably cost a lot more than an e-reader does. Also, I don’t know about the Kindle, but you can buy cute little covers to protect your Nook that look like book covers (which I think is outrageously retarded, again, for no good reason).

I grew up in a house full of antique volumes, because my father is a dealer in rare books. I know that there’s a big difference between a beautiful, one-of-a-kind leather bound first edition and a mass-produced paperback.  Is the paperback a work of art? Well, no. But it has a smell, a feel, the pages make a sound when you turn them. The e-reader seems so sterile. I can’t write “Property of Greer Hed” in pen for no good reason on the flyleaf of a Nook, or purposefully break its spine or dogear its pages (I love breaking the spines of paperbacks. I’m sure my father would cry, or at least look mournful).  I can, apparently, “share my passion for reading” by Tweeting my favorite passages from my favorite books, and have the Kindle read to me in what I assume is a scary computer voice.  But all of this is based on a subjective assessment of the reading experience, and a flawed assessment at that, because I’ve never actually read anything off an e-reader. It might be just as awesome as “they” say it is.

I still have this kneejerk reaction of hatred, though, and I will probably never buy an e-reader unless it’s a gift for someone else. I don’t really care if other people want to use them. For me, I’ll stick with my obsolete, tree-killing, bulky, overpriced bundle of pages that is susceptible to water damage, book worms, and the passage of time.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Summer permalink
    June 23, 2010 4:51 pm

    Hey there, thought I might comment on this one:

    I don’t know about other technology, but with the kindle you are protected from lost or damaged kindles. All of the books that you have purchased can be re-downloaded into a new kindle (this also applies to people upgrading to a newer kindle) from their amazon account. Additionally, all of your little notes in the book are uploaded and saved online so they can never be lost as long as Amazon doesn’t fuck up on their end. (kind of like Mozy.)

    The real reason I think Kindles are kind of cool? They don’t take up much space. Now that I am almost completely moved into my apartment I can tell you that there literally is no more room for more books on our current bookshelves. (And that’s even after putting 10 boxes of teaching related supplies and books into storage.) (And I know you have a similar problem, Miss Likes-to-read.) Imagine all the books we are going to buy before we die. We all better get rich enough to have a library room in our future homes. (Which I would totally love personally. Who wants to go into a room with two kindles and be told it’s a library?) But seriously, for people with small cramped apartments with kids and stuff, a kindle might seem like a great idea.

    So if I love the kindle so much, why don’t I buy one? They are too expensive. Period. The actual kindle themselves are expensive, and then every book you buy is expensive. And Amazon doesn’t care if you bought the paperback/hardcover book already, even if you bought it from them: you don’t get the ebook unless you pay for the ebook.

    Plus, its not a freemarket device. Every book you read on kindle has to be bought from amazon. Quite a racket, no? At least Wal-Mart makes cheap covers for them now, so you don’t have to buy their fancy leather ones. I don’t know much about the B&N Nook, but I imagine it’s similar.

    Another disappointing fact about these devices? They don’t support free ebooks from Project Gutenberg and the like. I can read any Tarzan book for free from Gutenberg, but Amazon I have to pay a dollar. Now a dollar isn’t bad, but still I could get it for free if they would just let me read any ebook on my device. But then of course they would not have a monopoly on every book I ever buy from now on.

    Anyway, if you really want a kindle-type thing, I would recommend the skiff reader coming out soon from europe. They say it will support any ebook format and its got some other cool features too, like touch screen capabilities and extra durability. But you still probably won’t see me with one. I also like my heavy, page filled books 🙂

  2. Maggi Sanderson permalink
    June 28, 2010 11:27 am

    Hear, hear! I’m with you, Greer! Books are beautiful. Those that we love and read again and again are dog-earred and demonstrate the signs of being well loved, like a teddy bear or blanket love worn by a small child. Our favorite passages are the most ragged and tend to be easily found because the spines break at those often sought-after sections. Phrases, sentences, paragraphs that are meaningful to us we highlight and notate. We tape or glue the spines so that our most favored books will last and last. Inevitably, books from trees perish. The words, thoughts, ideas and flights of fancy are not lost, however; they stay with us, nourishing our minds, our hearts, our souls… until we become infirm, perish and return — like our books — to the earth. The Nook and The Kindle are not capable of cherishing the written word with the same attitude. They are sterile vessels that deliver books, but fail to recognize the loving connection between book and reader, reader and writer.

    • Jody permalink
      June 30, 2010 5:07 pm

      But Maggi, surely nothing that is set in cold, hard type can recognize the loving connection they way that handwritten books did before the invention of the printing press! Your paper and cloth books are mass-produced by a machine. The writer’s script is reduced to a mechanical process of stamping the words on paper in a font that shows no personality or warmth. Every letter e is identical to every other letter e. Sterile vessels indeed.

      • June 30, 2010 7:58 pm

        Interesting point, Jody. It’s definitely true that a mass market paperback is more “sterile” than a handwritten volume. However, before the advent of the printing press, books were not available to everybody. Instead, they were the property of the clergy and the educated elite. Personally, I’m willing to sacrifice some of my personal connection to the written word so that books can be the property of everyone who wants to read them.

        As Summer pointed out in her comment, companies like Amazon and B&N are trying to use their e-readers to make big bucks. On the one hand, I can appreciate that many companies specializing in book sales are probably struggling in the current electronic age, not to mention the current economic crisis. On the other hand, this seems like a step towards putting literature back in the hands of the elite (ie, those who can afford an e-reader and all the subsequent downloads). I’m not sure if the e-reader represents a revolution in technology similar to the invention of the printing press, but to be honest, I kind of hope not.

  3. pen2sword permalink
    October 12, 2010 10:49 am

    Haha. Oh, this post made me laugh. I admit I have had mixed feelings over e-readers… I think they’re really cool, and the book is the same word-wise either way. But at the same time, I can’t imagine replacing my favorite physical copies of books– The Thief Lord smells amazing, Alice in Wonderland has all the Tenniel illustrations and my favorite passages dog-eared, The Song at the Scaffold was originally my friend Eliza’s and came into my possession already comfortably creased, Jane Eyre can only be described as perfectly soft and creamy– with the e-reader versions.
    My hope is that the e-reader will encourage people to read by making it cool and convenient. But I believe that the printed word will still be around for years to come because so many people love it.

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