E-books vs paper books - a rather exaggerated tale of two opposing forces

Dec 19 2017, 2:03 pm

Technology is developing at an alarming rate, leaving no item safe from an imminent “upgrade,” and the paper book is no exception. The electronic book is seeking to take the pleasure of reading, a leisure that is consistent in our human history, and catapult it into a future where convenience outweighs connection. Buying the electronic book is supporting the destruction of imagination, allowing technology to reign over relaxation and tolerating a potential health risk. The eBook revolution will be the death of the bookshelf.

Every child should experience lying with their parents before bed, physically flipping through each page of their favourite book with anticipation, and observing the vivid illustrations. The intimacy that a parent feels with their child during a special read would be lost to a shiny gadget with a multitude of distraction features. Children’s books often vary in shape and size, as the reading experience is intensely based on visualization (wide pages for landscapes, tall pages for skyscrapers). By converting a paper book to a digital format, this stimulus is removed and essentially depletes the opportunity for creative thinking. Children’s books should be worn, written on, doodled on and above all, disposable. The eBook is not a cheap commodity and certainly unsafe in the hands of an energized child. Where a book is easily lost, damaged and then replaced at no severe cost, a parent would not be so easygoing at the vanishing or breaking of an expensive eBook. This takes the experience of a bedtime story from a carefree bonding time to a cost sensitive risk. However it is much more than the wallet that takes a hit by incorporating the eBook into a child’s life, it is the deliberate neglect of exercising our human senses. Allowing a child to physically feel the pages of a book that sparks their imagination is far more important that the convenience of saving a multitude of files on your cold, colorless eBook.

Imagine you are lying by the ocean; your feet dipped in the water and the sun hot against your face. In your hands you hold a book, in one scenario it is the traditional paper back, and in another the digitalized eBook of the future. With the eBook you are constantly stressed that salt water will splash up and damage the mainframe, that the sun beating down might fry the circuits, and the little battery bar in the corner is blinking, alerting you that it is time to leave your beachside post and find the nearest outlet. You are a slave to the machine. In the other scenario, water splashes up and stains your page, forever reminding you that you were lying by the beach as you read. The sun creates a natural light for your effortless read, and the length of time you can enjoy your steamy romance is infinite and without condition. It is just you and your book. Ebooks have an unreliable life span that make them completely unpredictable to abrupt battery depletion, not to mention their easily breakable screen and inability to repel water. The eBook has the power to barge into our intimate moments of relaxation, and with a blinking battery bar, divert our attention from the content to the nagging demands of the device.

The experience of reading is undergoing a radical transition, none more deep-seated and controversial than the abrupt shift from paper books to the digital format of the eBook.  There are some obvious reasons to revolt the eBook, including the abandonment of a child’s intimacy with their first illustrated story, the infringement of technology into yet another area of our lives, and the health risks associated by never escaping the screen (from the office computer screen, to the cell phone, to the television, to the bookshelf – really people?) There is an inarguable connection between a riveting story, and the human hands that turn each page. There is an archaic smell that emanates from a worn book, a sense of history from a bookshelf, and a feeling of wonderment upon entering a library full of stories waiting to be read. If all we own can be backed up onto files, then we risk losing everything if those files ever fail. So here’s to turning pages, folding pages, dirty pages, worn and torn pages, tears on pages and last pages.

DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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