First world problems (dear reader)

(A defense of e-readers, in verse, because if one more person sneers at my Nook HD+ I will scream.)

Every time someone sighs and/or rants,
oh, they do prefer a book,
the feel of the pages, the smell,
and don’t you agree that the technology
takes away all the romance?

I’m sorry.  I don’t.
I’m not an early adopter,
and I’m not someone who walks around with her face
in her phone, 24/7.
I’m not in it just for the romance.
I don’t limit myself to only one genre.
I’m in it for the escape.
For the knowledge.
For the expansion of information.
For the portability of all of my books,
because as much as I don’t mind lugging totes
upon totes upon totes of magazines, newspapers,
quarterlies, novels, not to mention the newest
non-fiction must-read, it is
awfully handy to fit all of it into a backlit 64 GB library
I can page through at leisure.
Dear reader, I’m in it for the reading.

I’m not saying books don’t smell good.
I’m not saying that there aren’t times
when I, myself, prefer a pulpy mass market
while I loaf in the bath, nor will I deny the
paper New Yorker I share with my dad
and read while I daven in time with the sway
of the bus through traffic.
I’m not saying that Goodwill paperbacks, twenty-five
cents for the half-dozen, haven’t been my relief
when I’ve been strapped for cash.
I’ll admit, too, pictures of food in cookbooks
aren’t, in fact, quite the same
on the screen as in a big, hefty paean
to cooking from home Ireland France
the newest en vogue restaurant.

Sometimes, though, art’s not the point.
Book design’s not the point. Cost’s not the point.
(Although, I’d point out, lots of those new bits and bytes
of books you claim to despise are cheaper than that hardback
taking up space in your hand.)
And, please, tell me, have you never explored the wide
world of the web and all its design?
It will tumble you over, this I can swear.
Or is it the lack of matteness to which you object?
The fact that you like all your books in a row–
that’s fine for you.  But reader, don’t preach.

Dear reader, though, because that’s what you
tell me you are, a reader, and therefore, by
implication, someone of intellect logic reason discretion,
please consider these facts, consider these questions.
The Collyer brothers died under tons of litter,
most of it reading.
How many trees have died for your preference,
the smell of vanilla under your nose?  (You do understand
that’s the smell of rot, decomposition, the smell that
presages the slow physical death of a book.)
How many authors can’t make it to paper print
in the first place, gleaned out by the oligarchic Big Six?

I will refer you to your reference books,
dear reader, for the arguments about what is
and what is not art, the definitions of highbrow and lowbrow,
and remind you that James Patterson hardcovers
likely constitute at least 1/3 of the book industry’s
annual paper consumption.
Again.  What is art?
Conservation’s important.  So is progress.
I invite you to compare the definitions
of conservative and reactionary.

How many kids, used to the shine of the screen,
will try something out because it’s compact,
because their nimble fingers can slide through
the pages, point, click, choose,
navigate through their books like they’ve
learned to navigate the rest of their lives?
I’d rather they read at all than go back to Fruit Ninja.
I’d add, too, that the e-reader I bought my
elderly dad was his sole consolation
in the days before he had his eyes fixed;
paper print was too small, even large-print.
The changeable fonts and backlight were what got
that inveterate, dear, beloved reader
through the six-month surgical wait-list.

Your opting out of the electronic tide doesn’t change
the fact that time and media formats march on.

I am not saying, dear reader, that there aren’t drawbacks,
that recommending and handing over a book
isn’t the same when it’s electronic,
that there is no simple one platform yet–
I don’t know that I want there to be.

Dear reader, I find that change and working-out of what works exciting.
Evolution, of sorts, even if it’s scrappy, incremental, and
features the occasional hard reboot.
There’s lots of e-crap out there, for sure,
and lots of reformatting and aligning of
operating systems to do, but there are also
paper bodice rippers galore and National Enquirers
in the stands at the grocery store.

Laissez faire, please, and none of your sneers.
I’m acquiring knowledge, and enjoying my book.
Isn’t that the thing, dear reader, that matters?


One thought on “First world problems (dear reader)

  1. Dawn

    While I actually do have more to say on the subject (prefer my novels on paper; [most] reference books would be great this way; I hope I don’t sneer at those who use e-readers, even unconsciously–or should that be subconsciously?; etc), I think I’ll stick with your comment on cookbooks.

    I used to work in a hospital library. When they decided to build a new one, the PTB decided in all their finite wisdom that they no longer needed a traditional library. After all, so much is available online and electronically (and that was how I learned about ebooks), and this way they didn’t have to build a specially reinforced floor–ok, no one ever said that; that’s my interpretation. Especially since the neighborhood they were moving into wasn’t happy about it and was kicking up a stink about height and helicopters and the like. I digress again. The point was that there was some unhappiness amonng staff & librarians as the color illustrations in the paper books were better than the ones on screen–truer to life, which is damn important when it comes to surgery!

    There are so many variations when it comes to computer and TV screens, some controllable, some not. Whereas your print photo/illustration, so long as it doesn’t fade, is the same all across the board. That alone is reason to keep paper books around with the e-readers and their successors.


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