The Book in Print vs. The E-Book Conversation

Some years ago during a family gathering, a cousin of mine made a simple statement while discussing e-books and textbooks: “You know, soon enough the paperback will be completely obsolete.”

fahrenheit_451
NOOOO! Books, I will save you!

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” was the elongated scream that occurred within my imaginative head as if Darth Vader had just announced his paternal relation while burning books and tossing them into the celestial abyss.

In a nervous rebuttal, I started arguing that using physical textbooks and annotating the text enable students to better “digest” material. Also, making a cognitive connection with thoughts that transfer to handwriting [in books] aid students in the ability to formulate ideas and use critical thinking in response to texts.

“Poppycock!” my opponent cousin replied – you can do that on a digital text as well. “Hello, TABLETS!” he simply stated.

Okay, admittedly as a Kindle tablet owner, I enjoy the convenience of having a library of books available at the touch of a finger. It’s great! I can tuck away any tempting thoughts of having to purchase a roller backpack because the tedious load of carrying physical books can be a tremendous, not to mention back-breaking, task. However, at home, I will often find myself opting to read books sitting on my shelf rather than using the Kindle. There is something personal about feeling the texture of a printed book and the sound of sweeping pages that sings to my ears. I suppose some applications can produce a sweeping page sound function on a tablet, but somehow it just isn’t the same. After arguing with my cousin over the existence of physical texts and our evolution into a digital world, I felt utterly defeated.

Why do I fear the extinction of the book in print?

I mulled over this thought and at one point conjured up the possibility of some new age version of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 occurring –  a world without books in print and the authorities accessing our only supply of digital texts, first censoring particular books, limiting our access to digital books, and eventually deleting our entire digital supply. It was a horrific vision.

I sat in front of my bookshelf, pulling books with dog-eared corners and binding that had lost its integrity over time. I thought about how, after completing a good book, I would sit in bed and literally hug the book close to my chest in sweet relief. I never was able to pinpoint why the book in print is more powerful than the e-book, but I sat there, in front of my books, feeling a surge of importance to ensure that the book in print should never cease to exist.

While there seems to be no current threat of a new age Fahrenheit 451 at the time being, the e-book grows rapidly and my heart aches with each closing bookstore. In the meantime, I continue to add to my collection of books in print, hoping one day that I will accumulate enough to build my own library. Books in print are easily available for purchase through online websites that have new and used copies (Amazon.com, Half.com, BarnesandNoble.com etc.) and the Kindle offers numerous free versions of classic literature. There is no need for readers to feel obligated to choose The Book in Print vs. The E-Book. Each type of book serves a unique function and, depending on the occasion, has a time and place for use (example: reading on an airplane  vs. reading at home). Yet, I must declare, I strongly prefer the book in print over the e-book and, should the extinction of the book in print near, why, I’ll probably be wailing like a mad woman and use all of my will power to ensure it’s ongoing existence.

– Lauren Sumabat

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