Paper or Plastic: The e-Book Debate

kindleI can’t decide how I feel about my Kindle. Do you, valued Snopes blog readers, have a Kindle or other electronic reading device? Or what about an iPad, Nook, or other more advanced technology I don’t know about? All are applicable to the following discussion.

The modern age of e-books allows for the lazy reader (myself included) to access nearly any work online at the click of a button. Looking at my Kindle right this moment, it suggests that I first check out David Sedaris’s Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls and follow it up with a foray into Dickens’s Great Expectations. That’s quite the spread. A little random and not entirely helpful to my individual tastes. This is I’m sure due to the fact that half of the books I’ve downloaded were for school assignments. Others reflect my choices from Christmas break and rare moments of leisure reading when I wanted nothing to do with schoolwork. These options consist largely of embarrassing ‘chick-lit’ and snarky nonfiction not likely to enter a school syllabus.

I actually do really want to read the Sedaris work, chiefly because contemporary postmodern literature is my favorite mode of writing. I know from experience that my Kindle is not the place for it. E-books make reading non-traditional forms of literature, which are often already hard to decipher, even more difficult to read. Take a look at a contemporary of Sedaris, Dave Eggers. The copyright page of Eggers’s creative nonfiction work, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, playfully tackles the normally mundane information that dominates any book’s opening pages. Having read the work in print, I knew to look through those pages on my Kindle as part of the book’s entertainment. Without that knowledge though let’s be honest: there is no way I would have clicked on the copyright page or dedication before clicking on the “Chapter 1” icon. His sarcastic interlude in the copyright information would have been lost.

The point of this diatribe is to identify my chief concern with the trend towards electronic literature. It contradicts the emphasis on form that occurs in much of contemporary writing, not to mention the potential for formatting errors. While I don’t have any books of poetry on my Kindle, I would imagine that this form of writing would be even more difficult to read on an electronic device.

So, should Kindles be abandoned? Despite my distaste for their obvious downfalls, at the end of the day I would say absolutely not. Where else can you access both David Sedaris and Charles Dickens with a few clicks, not to mention Alice Munro, Tom Wolfe, and Ernest Hemingway? Although there is no adjoining Starbucks or comfy leather armchairs included, the e-book has its own benefits. Literature has never been more accessible, even if the spacing and/or page numbers distort the work’s formatting. So pick up that electronic device one more time and let that backlit screen light up. Hey, at least those detachable, flashlight bookmarks have become obsolete—those things were a pain.

About Amanda Newton

Amanda is a senior English and Global Politics double major from Atlanta, Georgia. Her preferred genre of literature is Creative Non-Fiction, and she enjoys hiking in the American West during the summer.

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3 Responses to Paper or Plastic: The e-Book Debate

  1. Rod Smith says:

    Hold onto those flashlight bookmarks. You never know when you’ll need . . . .

  2. Ann Persons says:

    I completely agree with your conclusion, but I will be sad to see the day when used bookstores (and even regular bookstores) become obsolete. Maybe the internet will invent its own version. I wonder if they can replicate that old book smell, though.

  3. Elise Petracca says:

    I got a Kindle for my birthday a few months ago and I am so surprised by how much I love it. I was a skeptic before, but now I bring it everywhere with me. I have to admit, I am converted. Also, kinda funny – I’m reading that very book by Sedaris on the Kindle at this very moment.

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