You may not know this but I possess an English degree from one of Princeton Review’s “Best 377 Colleges”. http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2012/08/wagner_college_on_staten_islan.html. I guess they couldn’t find another 23 to make it a even 400.
Anyway, possessing such a degree from such a prestigious institute of high learning I felt it was a duty to resist the horde of e-readers plaguing our society in recent times. A book’s soul was in the physical paper, the ink pressed and dried into the paper. The anticipation of turing to the first page, the satisfaction of turning to the last… The omission of such tactile experiences was an affront to the author’s work.
Or so I thought.
Recently I gave in and bought a nook. The decision wasn’t made with little thought or debate. It was months in the making. Months lugging heavy, bulky books to and from work. Books that took up far too much space in my messenger bag. Books once read that wound up in a stack on the floor in front of an already packed bookshelf.
For centuries a great library was a symbol of status, both of wealth and knowledge. I was and still am proud of my collection of books. I have probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 500. They touch on a wide range of subjects from WWII to the history of comic books to architecture. There are paperbacks, hardcovers and coffee table books. But unlike those barons of industry or wealthy dukes of yesteryear who could dedicate an entire room as a library I have limited space in my home. In having a two year old what space we do have is now being dedicated to collections of trains, cars and Legos.
Upon picking up the nook I marveled at the its slight weight. I was impressed with the way it felt in my hand and the screen, despite my preconceived feelings, was easy to read. Then I had a feeling that what I was experiencing was what an Egyptian must have felt the first time he held papyrus in his hands thousands of years ago. No longer was there a need to etch and chisel stone. No need to be burdened by bulk. Knowledge could now be easily exchanged, shared, and learned. Think of the information that could be gathered on a stack of papyrus sheets that would equal the thickness to that of a single etched block. Think of the antiquated status stone tablets suddenly had.
I’ve long held the belief that Guttenberg’s movable type press is the single greatest invention in the history of mankind. It allowed knowledge, once monopolized by the church, to be spread to the masses. It was the single greatest tipping point of education the world has ever known. If the church had held their grip on knowledge for another century or two I have no doubt you would not be reading these words today on a computer.
Then another realization occurred as I began to read World War Z, the first ebook I bought.
It’s not the medium they’re written upon but the words themselves that give life to a story. The Lord of the Rings is still a masterpiece on a nook, or a kindle but an illuminated manuscript of Fifty Shades of Gray is still poorly written. If an author has done his job (like I hope I have here) then it doesn’t matter where or how you read something.
Furthermore, it only makes sense for e-readers to be the next evolution just as MP3 players were for CDs. It’s impractical to carry or store 1000s of CDs just as its impractical for the common man to carry or store thousands of books. In something the size of a notepad I can hand someone enough knowledge and entertainment to make Socrates or DaVinci weep with envy.
This past week with my nook as been a happy one. I’ve enjoyed reading without the weight and burden of a traditional printed book. It’s nice to know that I can load it with enough books to last me the year and that if I want a new one before I start my commute I have that ability.
A nook, simple of HD tablet can not replicate the coffee table book experience. Those are meant to be conversation starters, a large format that lends itself to the images that are contained within.
So, is print in its death throws? No. Well not any time soon.