In defense of reading books on paper
During the last decade, mankind has made some pretty impressive advances in technology and entertainment. We’ve witnessed the rise of YouTube, plugged in our Tivos, and we feel like we’re missing an appendage if we leave our iPods, digital cameras and cell phones at home. I will freely admit it right here: I am a Facebook fiend. I can’t leave the house without my iPod, and any value a watch had went out the window when I got my first cell phone in middle school. So far, I have welcomed these changes with enthusiasm, recognizing their value and the positive effect they have on our lives. This was until October 19, when I read an article in the New York Times that seemed to criticize college students’ abstention from the growing eBook trend. Now call me old-fashioned, but I have to ask: when did books made from actual paper become such a terrible thing?
Ask anyone that knows me, and they’ll tell you that I’m a bookworm. Along with a mini-fridge, my roommates and I brought a full bookshelf to make us feel at home. This may make me a little bit biased to this particular issue, but in any case, I look at eBooks like I look at drinking or religion: it’s a personal choice. Personally, I can’t read off of the backlighting of a Kindle or Nook (the Barnes and Noble equivalent), and the idea that a slab of plastic and metal as thick as my index finger is the same as a 400-page tome just feels counterintuitive. I like going to the bookstore and spending time browsing the shelves and sitting in the cafe with a coffee and a stack of paperbacks, trying to figure out which ones are worth the twelve bucks. If I can’t make the change to eBooks in my free time, why would I do it for college?
While these kinds of readers may be fine for the beach or the train, I really can’t think of a place for them in the classroom. You don’t have to worry about a book only having five minutes of power left on it when you’re sitting in the Street at 2 a.m., or experience a near-breakdown when something short-circuits and all of your highlighted passages are suddenly erased. Book pages can rip occasionally, but at least you don’t have to be paranoid about cracking them if you put down your backpack the wrong way. Sure, textbooks cost more, but there’s always the option of selling them back, renting or buying used. Putting my own problems with eBooks aside, there are still a lot of places in which e-reading isn’t even allowed. We live in the age of Facebook, something that isn’t lost on the adults around us. Sure, we can say that we’re going to write our Political Theory essay right when we get back to our room, and we’ll probably get it done in time—but how long do we spend checking status updates and posting pictures in between?
In three of my four classes, the professors explicitly told us that having laptops or any kind of electronic device was discouraged (the fourth was calculus). If they don’t want a MacBook or iPad, why would they think a Kindle or a Nook is much better? They both offer internet access, and to be honest, I can’t say that I wouldn’t be tempted if it was sitting right in front of me. If books became a part of our technology, an icon on a screen next to Facebook instead of a stack on your desk, which would you choose?
My name is Julianna Haubner, and I’m proud to say that my books are made from all-natural, tree-grown paper. I’m not against the environment and I’m not anti-progress or technology. If I see you with a Kindle, don’t worry—I’m not going to come up and start lecturing you on the wrongs of having your words on a screen instead of on a page. To each his own. Reading is supposed to be something that we do for ourselves, not something we do to keep up with a trend. Call it old-school, call it lame, call it whatever you want. All I’m asking is, what’s wrong with keeping some part of our lives human? The adults around us are constantly saying that we’re becoming too dependent on the technology that has become part of the everyday. Let’s leave some things free of metal and circuits and prove all of them wrong. Next time you’re in Miller, head for the Popular Books section instead of the Multimedia Room. When you have a free hour, instead of spending it on Facebook, get through a chapter of Twilight. Or try something a little more substantial. You’ll thank yourself later.