In Which I Condemn the eBook...Not.

This morning I read a post by lit agent Sarah LaPolla, in which she responded to Leah McLaren's post on how e-readers take the fun out of giving books. If this were a playground conflict at my school (where you must always side) I think I'd be wearing the words Team LaPolla in pen ink on the canvas of my Dunlop Volleys, despite the fact that I'm not going to invest in an e-Reader anytime soon, nor am I exactly pro "Oh-Em-Gee, e-readers are taking over the universe!".

First paragraph of McLaren's post and I'm rolling my eyes. Point One - most percentages are made up on the spot. Point Two - she says that 10% of adults in the US are giving e-readers as Christmas presents. I'm guessing that's around 2 million e-readers. What of it? If any of them are like my Dad, they're only giving them because they look nifty and besides the token debauched humour card they give to my Uncle, they cannot think of anything else besides John Howard's autobiography. And so what if last year they made up 1% of the Christmas market and that figure's gone up to 10%? It's like the iPod. There was a point where that's all any tween-slash-teen wanted for Christmas, but now, everyone has one.

McLaren then goes on to say that "curling up with a new novel on Christmas morning will never be the same". I don't know about her, but my Christmas morning consists of my family opening presents, preparing lunch and then going to my Aunt's place where we eat lunch with the rest of my family and chat until 7 o'clock. I then go home and crash. There is no book reading on Christmas day. I also think that my Uncle will open his present and immediately say "Oh, look. An iPod." It will take a moment for me to explain what the e-reader is. He will consequently nod and say: "My chance of working this is zero."

I don't understand why McLaren thinks this is the turning point, that for some reason the old-fashioned (are we really referring to them as that?) book will become extinct. Of course, there are the literary aficionados and the book collectors. And if any others who have myopia or other eye issues are like me, the last thing they want to do is open up another LCD screen to relax. I also think that tweens/teens (particularly girls) are the biggest demographic (look at Twilight and all the YA books getting film rights) and consequently, they'll continue to buy printed books. If I was thirteen and all smexy for E. Cullen, would my Dad say, "Oh, sure. I'll buy you that $200+ e-reader that you'll probably spill Coke all over and kill within a month. No worries"? Ha. If you think the answer to that is yes, you really don't know my Dad.

Despite this emergence of the e-reader, I personally don't believe that it will be able to take over the traditional book completely. The non-readers, young males as widely believed, will be more likely to buy a, what?, $200 e-reader before they buy a $20 book? Really? A teenage girl who never reads (she never even finishes the books set for school) whose motivated enough to buy the first Twilight or the first Hunger Games book is going to buy an e-reader? Right. One may make the argument that e-readers can be shared - am I going to lend my friend a $200+ device that has my entire library on it when she could drop it in the sink? Yeah, sure.

They will continue to print books, I reckon. Otherwise, what would happen to Dymocks or Borders? Would they become MacStore-esque, but with images of slim e-readers instead of laptops? Can you imagine the romanticism and imagery associated with books and photography and creativity being replaced by a white, shiny e-reader? *smirk*

The world isn't anti-ereader, and it shouldn't be. We should definitely embrace all technological advances, no matter what is being "threatened" as a consequence. Sara LaPolla makes a good point: "Books have been in the same bound-pieces-of-paper format since, well...since books were invented. So naturally, we're freaking out that someone is trying to change them". I'm not anti e-reader. I'm just anti-"the e-reader is so fantabulous it's going to make books, like, extinct!"

McLaren talks about not being able to distinguish the non-readers apart from the readers. I can't help but feel this has some sort of elitism behind it. I read books and you don't, but because this shows I'm superior, anything that wouldn't make the fact I read apparent is baaad. And why is it that "young males" always come up under this non-reader label? I'm young, and it's ridiculous. Some types of young women never read, some types of young males always read. It's like saying that girls are non-sportspeople. (This is getting a little off topic...)

What's my forecast? I think that in the future printing of books will probably be saved for bestsellers or reprints of collections - a la Conan Doyle and Austen - and first-timers and general authors will have to climb their ladders through the e-readers. Or maybe not. I don't think it's worth bawling over changing technology. It's going to happen. Do you think that the companies that manufacture the e-reader care whether you believe in the e-reader? Hell, maybe if I'm ever given an e-reader for a present, I'll be more inclined toward them.

Anyways, this is the end to my most "schizophrenic" post in a long while.


Falen (Sarah Ahiers) at: December 15, 2010 at 12:41 AM said...

my Mom got a kindle for her b-day last month. She got it because she has arthritis in her hands and is having difficulties holding large hardcovers (Stephen King's Under the Dome). I wish i had one. I would totally use it for books i want to read, but don't want cluttering my shelves (middle grade books, mostly).
But yeah, who reads a book on Christmas morning? We do the same thing you do.
Oh, i also wanted to add that ereaders (not the ipad though) use e-ink, which means the screens aren't LCD or backlit. It looks like real ink and therefore doesn't effect people with eye problems. It's genius

Trisha at: December 15, 2010 at 1:03 AM said...

Hehe, maybe you should add a new tag for 'rant' - i liked this one. :D I agree, in that e-readers have not and will not change my life anytime soon - i don't like reading books off a screen. ironic really since i'm editing all my writing on screen, can't stand to waste paper. LOL. but still, e-readers = nah. And i'm a librarian, we're meant to be all hip and with the times. :D

nindogs at: December 15, 2010 at 7:28 AM said...

@Falen Really, they're not LCD? Huh, 'tis intriguing. Well, I suppose I'll put that on the pro list. :)

@Trisha Ha, maybe I should. :D I could never edit on a screen. That would be ghastly. I have to do it in hardcopy. When I'm feeding paper through the printer, I'm always thinking 'Oh, those poor little trees'.

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