“Imagine if ebooks came first. Imagine if Gutenberg had not created the printing press but the Kindle. Now, hundreds of years later, we are beginning to experiment with this new medium of paper and beginning to acclimate ourselves to printed books.”
So begins a memorable essay by Tim Challies, an author- blogger-book reviewer, who, of course, is making the point that people generally prefer what they grew up with.Here’s a taste of Challies’ alternative present, where paper is the upstart. “In this scenario, you sat on your mommy’s knee while she read Goodnight Moon from a tablet, you heard dad read Little House on the Prairie from his Kindle, and you spent your years of schooling learning from electronic textbooks. Gutenberg had worked tirelessly centuries before to perfect the Kindle but now Jeff Bezos is heralding the remarkable new technology of the printing press and the amazing books it churns out. Where would the new book pale in comparison to the old ebook? What are the reasons we would give to remain with the status quo?”
Challies then lists some examples of why people growing up accustomed to e-books would look askance at paper books. In the case of the latter, for instance, “we would encounter an endnote in the text and think it absurd that we then have to keep one finger inside the book to mark our progress, flip to the very end, search for the right page, and read that endnote in a much smaller font. Or we would encounter a lengthy footnote in the text and grow annoyed that it takes up one-third of the page, breaks into the flow of the text, and disrupts it with a font two or three points smaller than the main one. In an ebook we only need to tap the note and it immediately displays over the text. Tap it once more and it is gone. It requires no flipping and it brings no disruption. It’s a great solution.
“Dictionaries. We would be amazed that anyone would expect us to consult an entirely different book—a big, heavy dictionary that may be in an entirely different room—when we need to look up an unfamiliar word. In an ebook the dictionary is built right in! Simply tap on the word and immediately we can read a dictionary definition. I look up far more words when reading ebooks than printed books because of the sheer convenience and simplicity of it.”
OK, you get the idea. Show this to your e-book-hating Luddite friends and let TeleRead community members know how they react.
I myself would agree with the opinion in the Readers First blog. Room exists for both kinds of books. Besides, as RF notes, even E isn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all. How long until we’re loading books directly into our brains?