Coexist

A friend forwarded this infographic about e-books and print books complementing each other. Perhaps despite all the impassioned arguments for and against e-reading, and the debate about how libraries should respond, the dust will settle and we’ll find ourselves in a world not so different than the one we know, with both print and digital books.

At least since library school (twenty(!) years ago) I’ve been hearing both media and anecdotal reports about how few kids and teens read, and yet studies keep showing they are reading. The LA Times/USC poll cited in the infographic found that 84% of people 18-29 like to read. And according to the Pew report “The Rise of E-reading,” 58% of 18-24 year olds and 54% of 25-29 year olds use the library, and the average for all age groups over 18 was nearly 58%.

A Gallup poll in 2007 determined than only 45% of Americans are baseball fans. Libraries beat baseball by 13 percentage points? Maybe reading should be the national pastime? By the way, baseball games are great places to read.

But I digress. The point is, e-books are here to stay, but it’s pretty likely that instead of making print books go away, the two will coexist. And perhaps more people will have the experience someone I know has had: her Kindle was fine for awhile, but she missed regular books, and going to the library. She hasn’t used her Kindle in awhile. It’s not that she didn’t like it, just that the novelty wore off and she went back to “real” books.

I wonder if anyone has studied how long people use their e-readers before they get put in a drawer? Tablets change the dynamic a bit, but I know I’ve had an unopened e-book on my Ipad for a few months now. Out of sight, out of mind, unlike the piles of books beside my chair, sofa, and bed, which beckon to me nightly.

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All the news that is fit to e-read

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.