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Books, not technology

September 8, 2011 - Jodelle Greiner
Maybe I’m just too old school; I know I’m resistant to change.

I’ve adapted to a lot of changes in journalism — as an example, when I started here at the Sentinel in 1986, we still had people working in the back laying out the pages by hand with galleys (strips of news articles) and actual photos that we cropped by hand. (No, we were not chipping it out on stone tablets.)

I like computers. I much prefer them over typewriters. I like digital cameras over film cameras — saves so much time and you don’t get those chemicals all over your clothes while developing pictures. I love e-mail and Google is a godsend.

So why can I not get excited about ebooks?

I prefer to buy or borrow a real book and read it, not call it up on a screen. If I buy it, I can hang onto it and read it whenever I want, whether that’s as soon as I get home or five or 10 years from now. I can get any book that’s ever been published, if the store or library can get a hold of it. I don’t need a wireless hookup, electricity or even batteries to read. It doesn’t cost me anything to sit with a book in my hand.

I’ve seen these Nooks and Kindles — small and portable, for sure. That’s one advantage they have over books. You can store a multitude of books on them and just have to carry the one thin electronic device. I shudder each time I think of moving my massive book collection. I’ve weeded out so many the past few years; if I’d kept them all, I could’ve opened my own library.

So the devices have their merits, but I’m still not sold.

First, you can’t get every book online, I think most of the more recently published books are available online, but it depends on the author and the publishers. JK Rowling famously wouldn’t allow the Harry Potter series to be reproduced electronically until she created Pottermore, and I’m sure there are other books you can’t get online. What about the classics? Can they be reproduced electronically? What about obscure novels I may hear about, and want to read; I’ll probably only be able to get them in a real book.

Second there’s price: where a book will cost me somewhere between 25 cents and $30, one of those little electronic devices runs over $100. Then you still have to buy the “books” online. What if I drop the thing? If I’m lucky, it will survive the fall; if not, I have a damaged device that may not work. If I drop a book, I may scrunch the spine, I may rip the cover, but I’ll still be able to read it.

Fortunately, even if you destroy the device, you don’t lose all the books you’ve purchased. They are stored online, sort of like your e-mail messages, and you can access them from any device with the right software. (Thanks, Paula, for the explanation.)

Then there’s the eternal conundrum of the latest technology. As soon as you buy something, they come out with something else that’s better and faster and what you bought is obsolete and maybe not even operational with the new technology in two years. Not a big fan of that constant change.

As you can see, I have a lot of questions and a lot of problems about this whole ebooks thing. While I weigh the pros and cons of it all, I think I’ll curl up with a good book. You know, pages and ink.

 
 

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