In Defense of E-Reading
Call it a backlash. This holiday season increased the world of e-books and e-readers by something like a jillion fold according to my highly scientific sources. So in January we had a couple of e-book grouches unload on this new budding trend.
Travis Jonker had an article in the School Library Journal (of all places) called snippily enough, “Fine. I Got an E-Reader. Now What?” I already responded to him on my own blog. Doug Johnson took it even further in a post on his blog, calling Mr. Jonker “reactionary” and in the comments said that the SLJ promoting his views was “detrimental to the profession.” Ouch.
Now we have Jonathan Franzen, the world’s grumpiest writer, getting into the fray. Not only does he not like e-readers, he fears “it’s going to be very hard to make the world work if there’s no permanence [like printed books]. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government.” Link to the whole grump here.
Huh? E-readers are somehow going to lead to the downfall of civilization as we know it?
Science writer Carl Zimmer steps ups to defend e-readers in a wonderful article from Discover magazine. In Franzen’s diatribe he uses The Great Gatsby as an example of a text that “doesn’t need to be refreshed.” This leads Zimmer to muse of the differences of Fitzgerald’s minor masterpiece in print and digital formats. “It’s certainly true that ebooks are an awkward young format that’s still sloppy and hard to manage,” he says. Then he goes on to speculate, “I expect ebooks will follow much the same trajectory as paperbacks. They will start out being frowned upon as shabby, and then they will deliver literature conveniently to millions of people who might not otherwise have read it.” To hear more of Mr. Zimmer’s cogent thoughts, listen to him interviewed on this topic (and answering callers) on a podcast from Wisconsin Public Radio.
Jonathan Segura has a defense on NPR’s Monkey See blog called, No More E-Books Vs. Print Books Arguments, OK? The gist of his argument is similar to one I’ve made before: “It’s not an either/or proposition. You can choose to have your text delivered on paper with a pretty cover, or you can choose to have it delivered over the air to your sleek little device…We should worry less about how people get their books and — say it with me now! — just be glad that people are reading.”