Books and a Letter to the Editor
Posted: Thursday 23 August, 2012
I managed to find a few moments to read the newspaper this week. Not a particularly ground-breaking statement, I grant you, but noteworthy in that it is an increasingly rare statement these days. Actually, wearing my professional hat, I ‘read’ the newspaper regularly, but it’s mostly with an eye towards work rather than pleasure. However, on this occasion, I was able to read for pleasure. It felt good. Over the course of two highly excellent pints of Tribute, from the St Austell Brewery, enjoying the sunshine in an idyllic pub garden, I managed to read pretty much the entire newspaper from start to finish - something I don’t think I have done without wearing a professional hat for some time.
My eye was caught by one of the letters to the editor, on a topic I have spent some time discussing with friends and colleagues; namely, book v e-reader. My inherent conservatism (allied to a great many other things) positions me firmly in the book camp. However, my professional stance positions me entirely to the contrary, at the forefront of new technology and the many benefits it can bring. In simplistic terms, the book v e-reader debate for me is a case of heart v head.
Speaking from the heart, as I’m sure the editor of this letter was, books provide such a greater tactile and emotive experience. Books are lent and loaned, passed on with love, lost, found and rediscovered. They have the power to transport you back in time, place and the corresponding emotions - and they look nice wherever you put them. In short, they speak to the heart. However, the growing e-reader army will point out the ease and access to a fantastic range of literature, the anonymity of reading whatever you like without embarrassment (you know who you are).
The argument for the head is perhaps strengthened more where the next generation is concerned. Surely the act of reading, no matter what the delivery method, is good. Therefore, if the e-reader can, through its technological novelty, encourage a generation who would otherwise be lost to literature, then that can't be a bad thing, right? What about schools? As the computer has become commonplace, and Google & Wikipedia have replaced the reference work, will the e-reader replace the book in schools? You can envisage the economic argument (although perhaps this is the only time I will be thankful for Michael Gove’s rabid traditionalism).
As is often the case in heart versus head, there are no easy conclusions to draw. Is this town big enough for both the book and the e-reader? I do hope so. Why can’t we just have the best of both worlds?