Ebooks, Amazon Kindle, or paper books? You can tell they're discussing it. Heatedly.
I have been one of those technophobes that still can't quite get the hang of Facebook. I have to ask one of my particularly Facebook-savvy friends how to send messages. And when Facebook goes and changes things around, there I am, rocking in the corner, missing the old ways. Sometimes I think I would have been better suited to a pilgrim existence. Perhaps I should have been one of those lucky devils washed ashore at Plymouth Rock in 1620, stepping off the Mayflower with nothing but a satchel of raisins and a dream.
But alas I am alive in the 21st century, and along with that comes various niceties. Antibacterial wipes, Morrisons microwave Indian meals, and Primark shoes for £3 being just a few. And of course technology. I would die without the Internet. I am writing this, for example, on a laptop computer (my Dell Inspiron, how I love it).
How does this relate to writing, you ask? Because the ways in which we write have changed over the years. And people have taken to it. For instance, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote with a quill pen on some paper before metal pens began being mass produced in the US in 1860. You may say that at the time of writing The Scarlet Letter, he was faced with a newfangled instrument...invited to put down the quill and pick up the pen. Jump to a century later, to the 1960s: Stephen King on the front porch of his little new house, babies crying somewhere off in the house, with a child's desk balanced on his thighs, writing on a typewriter. Clacking away. He could watch the stack of pages grow.
I have never used a typewriter but I have found that, for myself, my mind works faster than my writing hand, and so writing something down on paper (like a story, with dialogue, anything more than sideways scribbled notes), just ends in frustration.
Enter: the computer. I write so much faster and easier on a computer because I can type quickly. That matches up with my thoughts and I am able to write happily for hours without so much as writer's cramp. (Saying that, one of my dear friends, in her 70s, always wrote stories by hand on paper and to this day still does so. For her, the computer gets in the way of her writing process.)
And reading, ah, there's the rub. Because so many of us
myself included choose to reject new technology when it comes to taking in literature, stuck in our old ways, stubborn as asses. But all the same, the ways in which we read are ever-changing. We now read computer screens almost just as much as reading things on paper. Studies have apparently shown - and I didn't do this study myself, I just am told this at work - that people generally read 20% slower on a computer screen than they do on paper. I don't know. But we are faced with reading on-screen a lot. Daily. We read the news, sports, stories and emails on-screen. So why not an e-book? Why not a Kindle? Are these things so different as to disrupt the love we have of real, in-your-hand, dusty-smelling books?
Are they so bad that we wonder whether it will take away the true experience of reading from a heavy tome, the one we have to hold with two hands and hold down with one (or two) other books to keep it open so we can eat our breakfast and read at the same time? Are these subtle annoyances, these little pains, somehow important to our struggle to absorb the literature before us? And this new technology, these Kindles, for example, are they there to make it just too easy? Where you can touch the screen and turn a page when there really is no page to turn? Does that take away from the literature itself?
All good questions.
I really have no answer. Like quill pen to metal pen to typewriter to computer, everything is changing around us and perhaps it isn't so bad to give new stuff a try. I can only say that I will always, no matter what, have at least one bookcase groaning under the weight of real paper books.
Whatever form your reading takes, do it happily.