A Book is, like, Totally a Status Symbol

The generation that grew up with computer technology at their fingertips prefers print books to e-books. I can’t be the only person who finds this fact is kind of unbelievable. I mean, babies (and even pets) have iPads! However, a recent poll done by Voxburner includes responses from 1,420 young adults between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four, and provides various reasons for the preference to print books over e-books. These reasons include:

  1. Ability to hold the book
  2. Not being restricted to a particular device
  3. Easily sharing a book
  4. The packaging/cover of a book
  5. Easily selling it after reading.

All of these reasons are valid to me, and I agree with some of them. I got a Kindle because I thought it would be more convenient, and, you know, sometimes it actually is–sometimes. The ability to hold a book is important to me. I have the need to fold page corners over to save my spot. There’s something nostalgic about folding page corners and writing in the margins with a crummy neon green pen. I also love sharing books. You can’t share an e-reader. I mean, you can, but good luck getting that expensive piece of technology back. How often do people return books you lend to them? Exactly.

This poll also pulled together the most commonly used statements for why sixteen to twenty-four year olds prefer the print books:

  1. “I like the smell.”
  2. “I collect.”
  3. “I want a full bookshelf.”

Luke Mitchell of Voxburner believes that books are status symbols, and I tend to agree. As an English major, I read a lot of books (“read” as past and present tense). I enjoy reading all genres and time periods. I can’t tell you that I like Jane Austen more than Ernest Hemingway, or Virginia Woolf more than Joyce Carol Oates. There’s no way I could choose a favorite because they’re just all different. However, when I talk to young people, there’s a commonality among the books they read, and it’s typically that these books are usually called Twilight or Harry Potter. While it’s good that they are reading, I don’t find Twilight to be a book that is going to change the world and make its mark in history because of the awareness it brings to cultural issues. (Did the thought of that book related to culture make you laugh, too?)

Bringing it back to e-books and print books: I think that print books being a status symbol is a credible theory because reading books is believed to improve intelligence and diction. Maybe some kids really do read books that much–I did, and I know a lot of others who did, too, but I think that adolescents prefer the print book to the e-book because they want people to see them reading a book, and they want to be seen reading a “smart” book like Atlas Shrugged, so that people think they are well-read and intelligent enough to understand this big book that a lot of people will be impressed by their reading it.

I know I sound a little cynical, but I also think what I’ve said is relatively true. What do you think?

– Allison Bellows

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About Allison Bellows

Allison graduated from California State University at Long Beach in May 2013 with her B.A. in English with an option in Education and an emphasis in Creative Writing. She is currently applying to graduate programs for Social Work. Besides writing for The Poetics Project, she is the social media manager and writer for the monthly newsletter at Makai Coffee in Long Beach, CA. Some of her favorite books are "The Passage" by Justin Cronin, "1984" by George Orwell, and "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger.
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