Monday, June 27, 2011

Do we need dead trees?

The last time I was on an airplane, I took a look around to see how many people were, like me, lugging around huge stacks of bound paper so that we'd have something to read during the flight, and how many people had convenient little devices tucked into their pockets or bags. I felt vastly outnumbered. Thank goodness G-Dog was nearby or I might have felt almost alone.

I'll stick with the minority, though, since I'm not ready yet to trade in my books for a nook, kindle, ipad, or phone app. I'll never say never -- I can certainly see the appeal: all those books on that one little device! Wow! The screens and preference options are dazzling (since I switched to trifocals, I've given up trying to read an actual book in bed, but I bet I could manage with a kindle). And the tree-hugger in me loves the thought of all those paperless books!

But right now, I still need the actual book. I read with a pencil in my hand. I underline, I circle, I put notes in the margins. I keep a character list in on the back page of the book. I like being able to share a book (is it possible to loan or pass along a digital book?).

I do have a few books loaded on my phone. They're old favorites that I like to read time and time again. I have them so I'll have something to read if I forget to take a book to the doctor's office or get unexpectedly stuck waiting somewhere. But I don't like reading that way. The screen is small and my phone is cold and hard. It tends to beep and vibrate at random moments, demanding my attention. I can't handle it. As Johann Hari points out, a good book should only do one thing:
The object needs to remain dull so the words – offering you the most electric sensation of all: insight into another person's internal life – can sing.
A book does not get in my way when I'm trying to read. I'm afraid a device would. I already spend too much time sitting at a glowing screen. My fondest goal these days is to get away from the computer, so that I can actually do things like hiking, biking and yes... reading books.


Keera Ann Fox said...

I ordered a Kindle. First I tried the software (it's free!) because there was a book I really didn't want to wait for via snail mail - and I enjoyed the reading experience, even on my little iPod Touch. But I miss reading a regular sized page, so I'm waiting for my Kindle. This way I can continue to buy books without buying more shelf space. I'm also tickled to learn that the Kindle will read out loud to me and has a built-in dictionary.

In evaluating your needs, you need to distinguish between a true digital book reader and a digital screen that runs book reading software. Screen technology and battery life are hugely different between the two.

Advantage to printed books: You can lend and loan them (you can lend Kindle books to others but you don't have access to them while they're "out" just like, well, like paper books). Also, since I'm in the biz, I can tell you that the paper and printing industries have become some of the most environmentally sound in the world. So use paper-based stuff with a clear conscience! Computer thingies pollute hugely during production and destruction.

Keera Ann Fox said...

PS: BTW, you can add notes and highlight and bookmark with Kindle software.

alice said...

I expect I'll end up with one eventually, but it's going to be a while. I was at a Barnes & Noble store (one with bricks & mortar!) today and noticed that they've given over a good bit of real estate in the store to the nook. I tried to conger up some interest, but ended up just walking past the displays on my way to look at the books. Maybe next time...