Picture this: you’re sitting in an independent café, reading On the Road while you sip on your craft beer and wondering if you’re going to meet someone today who will change your life. In glides the most deliciously hipster fellow who briefly makes eye contact with you before sitting down and breaking out a very well-read copy of the very same book. You begin what you hope is an infectious grin but Hipster just looks baffled and stands to go and order a drink. You suddenly realize that you’ve lost before the game has even begun … Curse you, e-book reader!
It’s a timeworn debate: to Kindle or not to Kindle? The situation described above is just one of many losses of the aesthetic pleasure that is attached to reading a physical book. All jokes aside, there is a certain something about books that just feels right. They have a certain smell, a certain tactile impression and the ability to give that certain sensation as the bigger portion transforms into the smaller as it is read. Second hand books with the loving inscriptions and little scraps of life scribbled in the margins should be reason enough to spurn the e-books. Yet thousands of people buy Kindles and iPads every day.
Alas, I’m a big supporter of the e-book reader. As someone who travels a lot, loves to read and does not have the cash to splurge on checked luggage, e-books have made my life so much easier. I no longer have to buy multiple copies of books I leave on planes, forget at parties or accidentally let disintegrate in the bathtub. In fact, a simple sandwich bag will eradicate the bathtub issue entirely! I can share books with my friends and family and not have to worry about never seeing them again. I save so much money on the out-of-copyright books that are available for free online and I can still annotate and highlight e-books. Also, if I don’t understand a word, I can simply click on it and the definition will be right there for me to see — particularly useful when I’m reading in another language! Not only that, but I get to feel self-righteous for saving trees! All things considered, nostalgia and aesthetic attachment doesn’t seem like the strongest argument for preserving the paperback.
So why is it really important for people to keep buying physical copies of books? With the gradual digitizing of our culture and literary history there comes the risk that it will be more open to manipulation. If physical copies of the originals are abandoned, what’s to stop our beloved texts from being altered, wrongly appropriated and even, Milton forbid, deleted? While e-book readers are certainly a technological resource I intend to take advantage of, I still hope to one day be able to purchase physical copies of my books. In the meantime, I guess I’m relying on the nostalgic and the hipsters to keep them in circulation.
Naomi Rea thinks parties are so boring without a good e-book.
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Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are primarily submitted by students.