E-Readers & the Reading Experience

A guest post from Carly Parce

E-readers have made quite the impact on readers since Amazon came out with the Kindle 1 in November 2007. Last December Barnes & Noble announced its online e-book sales outnumbered sales of hard-copy books for the first time. A March 2011 survey also found the collected sales for e-readers worldwide had reached 12.8 million in 2010. With this digital revolution in place, one often wonders what is in store for book lovers.

I have never managed to understand the demand for e-readers. Call me crazy, but sitting down to read a novel on a tablet with a screen in front of me is not appealing. Not to mention the fact that I don’t have the pleasure of listening to the pages turn, or even smelling them. And lucky for me, this sentiment rings true for countless avid readers, as books carry a sense of weight and connection e-readers simply cannot replace. As one such reader exclaims, “An iBook, e-book, Kindle file, whatever you want to call it, has no character as an object, no concrete expression of the history behind it.” Books keep us in touch with the original time period they were written in, while a Kindle, try as he might to bring that history to light, will only keep us moving forward in time.

Supporters of e-readers make the claim they are better for the environment because they do not use any paper. But what they don’t tell us is small handheld electronics such as the Kindle are involved in most illegal mining today. And this illegal mining usually occurs in economically depressed countries with environmentally depressing methods. These handheld electronics also account for more carbon emissions than even the airline industry. One e-reader does the environmental damage of fifty books, and when we factor in the fact that most people replace their e-readers in two years or less, this number is greatly increased. The Kindle may have brought the age of technology to new heights, however it also aided in the destruction of the environment.

Even with the flood of evidence showing the negative effects of e-readers, the supporters are still not deterred. Teacher William M. Ferriter believes e-readers aid his students in the classroom because the text can be enlarged, so the students feel as though they are reading more. But since the students are not actually reading more, we wonder where the positive effects of this reading experience come in. And other supporters often use this argument devoid of reasoning as well. E-readers have made it easier to buy books, as well as decreased the price. But how much does this really aid the reader? Is she experiencing more from her reading or finding some deeper meaning? I am going to guess she simply enjoys the convenience factor. And in the process she has completely forgotten reading is an art form which should remain free of technology contained in leather covers and dusty library shelves.

[Carly Parce is a student at Southern Oregon University studying English Education. She hopes to educate students in a way that will keep books alive and strong.]

About Ed Battistella

Edwin Battistella’s latest book Sorry About That: The Language of Public Apology was released by Oxford University Press in June of 2014.
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One Response to E-Readers & the Reading Experience

  1. Today’s NY Times reports that “Rowling Releases ‘Harry Potter’ Into the Ether.” Now it’s just a matter of time before “book” means “ebook” and we’ll be using “pbook” for “book.” Think email versus snail mail.

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