Okay, so here’s a whole other aspect of reading politics that I find irksome. If you’ve been reading my posts, it might seem like I have this strange trend of picking apart things that others and even myself get angry or divisive over then deciding we should all just stop fighting, join hands, and start singing Kumbaya. I myself did not really notice this trend at first but yeah, looking back a couple posts, it seems like I do. At the very least, I feel like a lot of people are fighting over things that shouldn’t matter or aren’t so different after all, not in a way that matters, anyhow. With that in mind, I’m here to talk another topic in the book world that can get people in the literary world all riled up. How do you read? E-books or paper books?
You know the drill, people say e-readers are the wave of the future and paper books are saying husks of irrelevance and then other people say books are soulless simulacrums of real reading and that holding a real book beats any sort of electronic experience. I don’t want to agree or disagree with either side on this issue here, because I don’t feel like either one is really right.
I freaking love reading, as you probably should’ve known by now. I’m frequently trying to get my hands on the latest books in any way possible, be it electronic or otherwise. It’s the story that matters the most anyway, isn’t it? Well, whenever I inject this opinion into conversations of e-book versus paper books, people look at me funny and mumble a “I mean, I guess if that’s how you feel, whatever…” and they feel somewhat deflated that I didn’t try to take a “real” side on the debate. Really, though, stop and think for a second. I genuinely feel like most people will take whatever medium gets them the story in the most convenient, (and probably cheapest) form. The convenience card isn’t as fun to play in a philosophical debate of morals, especially when it refuses to take sides with one medium over another, I still see it as the trump card
Look at television. That’s an easy one for me to talk about, and a great example. As a college student, I’m basically living with a whole bunch of people who, like myself, don’t usually have a simple cable TV set up, yet we love to talk about TV. Everyone loves talking Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul, or Doctor Who (okay, maybe that’s more my crowd than the mainstream sect of college students,) but next to no one catches up on their shows in the exact same way. Some have Netflix or HBO Go, some borrow their friend’s password’s for Netflix or HBO Go, some use Hulu an Huluplus for some godforsaken reason, and some find sights that can trick their browser into thinking they’re in the UK to get free streaming of this or that show. Different strokes for different folks and all that. The point is, mediums aren’t the reason people watch their favorite show. I’ve never got into a hideous argument with someone because I watch Game of Thrones by borrowing the family HBO Go password and they download it from a shady site with way too many banner ads for breast augmentation. I don’t care. Why does this happen in the book world, then? In a way, I don’t think it does.
When people get into arguments about electronic versus print publishing, I believe they’re real focus is more on the evolution of technology and less on actually wanting to read this or that book in their favorite medium. I’m not saying it’s wrong or impossible for someone to prefer one medium over the other for reading. I’m saying that people get so heated while discussing this topic because they’re thinking primarily about the broader progression of technology here. Some people feel we lose medium richness,( you know, the physical touch and smell of a book and all,) when switching over to electronic tools. Some people don’t think so, or don’t care. Some people believe in stuff like the singularity or technological determinism, which are often depicted in movies and stuff as the robopocalypse, but really just mean that technology is moving forward, becoming as advanced and intelligent as humans, and that’s something we can’t and shouldn’t stop. I like being able to look at funny videos of cats at 2 AM, and argue that school of thought isn’t as necessarily as terrifying as it sounds.
Some people are more of what the experts would call social constructionists. They believe people control the direction of technology’s development more than it controls us and that we shouldn’t treat the singularity narrative of technology as inevitable, but something to stop and truly think over. I’m all for stopping and thinking, as this blog has proved. Maybe we’d be better in an online market with fewer corporate powerhouses like Amazon controlling the flow of online purchases as much as they are helping it. Maybe libraries shouldn’t have to only check out one digital “copy” of a book at a time to patrons, just to protect the publisher’s wallet. Yes, that’s a thing, if you didn’t know already checkout your own library’s online offerings. Digital books are listed as unavailable if they are currently being “borrowed” by someone else. Sorry, that’s a hot spot for me. Point is, there are plenty of reasons to stop and think about the fifty million different ways technology is pulling us now, whether unstoppable or not.
Please, though, just remember that your feelings on technology don’t have to interfere with your love and/or discussion of books. Don’t vilify friends who choose e-readers over old paperbacks or vice versa. If someone is being a prick about the whole issue when you just want to sit and talk about the new book that you both just read, calmly sit down, disengage, and use whatever website or cable connection you damn well please to catch up on Game of Thrones. The new season is coming up after all.