In Defense of Books

“When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.” Maya Angelou

The news of Borders’ imminent liquidation leaves me feeling very upset and unsettled. For me, buying books is an experience that cannot be matched by using an e-reader. I think that iPads are wonderful and serve a great purpose but the physical experience of reading a book is thus far unparalleled by any form of electronic media. Through the use of an e-reader, seemingly meaningless things like the size of the book, the smell, the layout and the turning of the pages are all lost. One can argue that, in the end, the literature should be able to stand on its own regardless of how it is delivered. However, I personally have always enjoyed holding a physical book in my hand while I read it. There are some things that technology cannot replace. I have long demurred purchasing a Kindle for this exact reason; I prefer a printed book.

Is the demise of the book and the rise of the e-reader yet another sign of the deteriorating cultural climate of the modern era? Certainly not. If anything, e-readers have made reading cool again and fostered a love of reading into a nebulously large group of consumers. Those who have embraced the e-reader are reading now more than they ever have. That is certainly a remarkable achievement that should be celebrated instead of chastised.

With overall literacy on the decline and new studies linking illiteracy to drug use and crime, there is no reason that we should not be doing everything in our power to encourage children to read for pleasure regularly. If the e-reader is what we need to instill a love of literature into children then I am all for it (although I would hope that printed books and e-readers could exist side-by-side). Reading for pleasure helps to increase and augment vocabulary, writing and speaking skills, historical context and, perhaps most importantly, exposes readers to new ideas that help them to form their own unique opinions (adapted from Pick the Brain). In this day and age, we seem to be experiencing a dire shortage of smart, educated and opinionated intellectuals and an appalling rise in ignorance, apathy and misinformation. If everybody in the world could pick up a few books and cultivate their mind for a few minutes, we would be living in a drastically different society.

But as for me, I elect to reserve my right to stubbornness, continue in support of the printed book and esconce myself into bed every night with a new book from Agatha Christie’s Poirot series (summer reading at its finest!).

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