As a bibliophile and technology skeptic (hold your fire: I see many benefits, I’m just not convinced it’s always better), I was never very excited about e-books. I love the look and feel of physical books. I love owning books that belonged to earlier generations.
When e-readers became popular, I tried reading a few library books on an iPad. I wasn’t really impressed. Other than the fact that I could read without a book light, I didn’t really understand the appeal.
I fall firmly on the side of those who, like Canadian author and librarian Ian Colford, feel books are already good technology and that their existence as enduring objects is worthwhile. As Lev Grossman wrote so beautifully in the New York Times Book Review last fall, the codex, which allows nonlinear reading, is in many ways superior to the e-reader, which works more like a scroll.
But I am now e-reading daily. After a number of delivery problems and some number-crunching, I gave up home delivery of the New York Times in favor of a digital subscription. I don’t love it, but I can see a number of advantages beyond the obvious physical and financial benefits.
Although I’ll have fewer papers for mulching my garden, I can read news as its published, and it won’t be late, missing, or wet. From within an article, I can take links to videos and slide shows or read related blogs. I’m saving trees (although there is evidence that the environmental and human impact of iPad production isn’t so great), but I’m still supporting a newspaper whose writing I admire.
I realize my attachment to newsprint is partly sentimental. If you know of a good “clipping” app, please leave a comment. Meanwhile, I’ll be sipping my morning coffee, tapping a touch screen, missing the rustling of paper and my cat’s attempts to lie on whatever page I’m reading.