E-reading is still reading: why there’s no such thing as a “real book”


Grace Palmer, Opinions Editor

“That’s not a real book!” – The battling cry of the jealous, perhaps? I’ll admit, I used to look down on ebooks, but now that I have a kindle I know that they’re practically magic – it makes my bag bigger on the inside. It’s much easier to carry my kindle than to haul around fourteen actual books.

However, this does beg the question – what makes a book a “real book?” Is the important part of the book the content or the pages it’s printed on? If the question is posed that way, most people would undoubtedly say the content. Now, I’m not putting down so called “real books.” I like bookstores and the smell of old pages as much as the next nerd.

But I do wonder, what’s the source of this print and paper snobbery? Perhaps it’s the same romanticism that drives the resurgence of 8 track records and polaroid cameras. The experience is prized over the actual result. For example, Ipods may play music, but they can’t match the feeling of setting the needle on its path or the nostalgic crackle that backs the music.

What is the important part of the book reading experience? Is it the act of holding the book in your hands and turning its pages? Or is it being drawn into the story, your heart beating faster when the hero is in danger, crying with them when they’re heartbroken, escaping from your troubles in a fantasy world?

Take another example of nostalgia and romanticism carried too far – the argument that “Smart phones have ruined getting lost.” Have they? If “getting lost” refers to wandering, smart phones have improved it. You can take the bus past your usual stop and not get off until things look interesting, still feeling secure in your ability to find your way back home. If anything, smart phones have made getting lost more convenient.

It’s the same with reading – e readers allow you to search in the texts, look up the definitions of words, and get the books you want within an instant. They add convenience to reading. If you’ve been thinking about getting a kindle or other ereader, I would encourage you to. You can have countless books at the touch of a button (for free, if you take advantage of your friendly local library).

Even if e readers don’t interest you, don’t look down on people who have them. They’re still reading, reading “real books,” even.