Corbin H. Crable
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It was a day I had been dreading for a long time – the day I betrayed my beloved books.
Roughly three weeks ago, I gave in to the so-called “cult of Apple” and bought an iPad, a device on which I could surf the Web, check email, watch videos, listen to music – and download and read books.
When the subject of the e-reader revolution comes up, I’m sure most of you find that true readers are divided on the topic. Those Apple adherents will tell you, “I’m able to carry hundreds of books on a single device. My entire library is now portable! I can justify being a bibliophile/book hoarder because my collection takes up no physical space!” Those who may be slower to adapt to new technologies will fire back with, “But I love the feel of paper between my fingers. I love the sound of pages turning. I love being able to make notes in the margins and lend my dog-eared, well-loved books to friends and family members.”
If you’re reading this column in its hard copy form – on page three of The Gardner News – I’d guess you’re likely to be one of the former. I thought I was, too, and was horrified to learn that making the transition from reading physical books to reading their digital counterparts was surprisingly easy.
I downloaded one book after another and marveled at how simple the process was. Before I knew it, I was replacing my entire library onto one small device.
And you know what? I felt guilty.
Step two in my e-reader conversion was to discard my hard-copy books. Anyone who reads as much as I do and has taken this same step to cut down on clutter knows how difficult the process can become. It’s almost as if, as you reach up to unshelve another book and place it in the “donate” pile, you can hear each one beg to be spared. “What? You’re throwing ME away? Remember all of the good times we’ve had? You bought me for your road trip to Minneapolis!”
Still, I understand the concerns of those who love nothing more than to hold a book in their hands in a coffee shop on a rainy day. It’s obvious that the makers of e-readers understand this, too. When a swipe of the finger on a glass screen mimics the turning of a physical page, it’s clear to see that such devices are crafted with that same feeling in mind.
Now, as my book collection lies somewhere between the physical and digital realms (will I ever complete the task of actually cleaning off my bookshelf?), I mourn the loss of books that I’ve had for years but take comfort in knowing that the ideas, plots, characters and words contained in them – the very ones that stimulate thought and empower readers to action – still exist in some form.
As someone who considers himself a dedicated reader, I now know it’s not the medium you use for your reading. It’s the knowledge you gain from the act of reading itself that’s truly important.