What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

05 September 2011

They're Freaking Me Out

So we've had an interesting series of conversations in my Technologies of the Book class, about the nature of technology, what is meant by "the book", where technology and the book will go next, etc. As you might expect in a room full of kids who have grown up with computers and iPods, there are some in the room who are all for digital formats and eliminating the printed book, if not altogether, then at least from general use. Others are purists who insist that an e-reader, no matter how good, will never replace a physical book.

I really would love to have a room
like this in my house. Source.
In this as in so many other things, I'm on the fence, with a stack of books at one hand and an e-reader in the other. I own somewhere around 400 books (probably closer to 500 or 600 if you count all the books that I've never retrieved from my parents' house), and nothing makes me happier than sitting down with one. I love the smell and texture of books. I like how it feels in my hands. I enjoy putting a literal bookmark at my literal page in a literal book. My friend Brandon likens them to trophies-- once read, a book sits on the shelf to proclaim its read-ness to all. That's a fair way of looking at it, but considering that I re-read my books until they are in pieces, I can't say that I treat them like trophies. (And further considering that I get many books from the library, most of the ones I've read are in someone else's trophy case.)

On the other hand, my 600 books could all fit onto an e-reader with room to spare for expansion, and the reader itself doesn't take up the amount of shelf space of a single one of my literal books. And quite frankly, it's the words themselves that I'm after, not the texture or smell. So I'm almost to the point of saying about the kind of book the same thing that I say about tortilla chips-- I don't care what kind of chip it is, as long as it delivers the salsa to my mouth.

Anyway, on to the freaked-out part. One of the young men of the "we don't need paper" persuasion (who I've nicknamed Walking Argument) was talking about the future of interface-- we'll all have chips implanted, and can access books or the internet or whatever with a literal blink of the eyes, so that the image is projected across the visual field. (I leaned to the girl next to me and said, "I hope we stop using cars before that happens." I mean, really-- we think texting and driving is bad! Imagine playing Mario Kart while driving!) The general consensus of the room was that none of us were going to volunteer for chipping, so Walking Argument said, "No one is going to volunteer. That's why we should just experiment on prisoners."

Ew. Ew ew ew ick ick ick. I get that to him this seems like a reasonable idea, but to me it's abhorrent. First of all, we don't incarcerate people because we need test subjects. That's a lot too much like a dystopia novel to me. And even more to the point, I seem to remember my high school history teacher telling us that the Nazis did a great deal of medical experimentation in the concentration camps. I do not, under any circumstances, want to start down a road that the Nazis thought was a good idea. No, no, no. So while having a computer in my brain may be the future, the future will have to wait until willing test subjects come forward. In the meantime, we have computers and e-readers and phones and actual books that are working just fine, thank you.

What kind of reader are you? Real book? E-book? Either one? Or are you in the "computer in the brain" camp?


mybabyjohn/Delores said...

I'm getting this mental image of a computer malfunction whilst implanted in my brain. Call the service center. "Have you reset your modem?" "Okay, turn the whole system off." Say what?

Carolyn Counterman said...

Ah, Su... I love my books. I re-read my books. I take care of my books. I do not have an ereader. Don't really want one. But that is just me... I realize that technology is moving much faster than I ever will. As for the computer-in-the-brain issue: I agree that we should not experiment on prisoners. I think that comment shows how much Walking Argument has become detached from humanity - some of the detachment a direct result of his attachment to machines/technology, I would guess. As with many things that need experimentation, I say let the people who are yelling the loudest in favor of it be the first test subjects.

Su said...

@Delores: LOL! Imagine people suddenly falling asleep to "re-set"!

@Carolyn: The fact that he's 20 probs has something to do with it, too. One hopes he will change his mind! As for the books-- I'm not really ready to trade mine in. But I do love all the free books I'm getting on Kindle for PC. Hence the reason I'm stuck on the fence! :/

....Petty Witter said...

It has to be a real book for me. I can understand why people feel the need for ebooks, they are just not for me I'm afraid.

As for computers installed in the brain? I don't know about that BUT I wish they could install memory sticks in to fingers as I'm sick of Husband dearest loosing his.

Melanie Stanford said...

Stopping by to say hi. I'm in your campaign group (40).
I'm also thankful for Jane Austen today!

Doreen said...

I am freaking out about walking argument...can you say marxist? nazi? Dear Lord who allows these people near our children??
Anyway thanks for stopping by and I wanted to let you know that I did find you in my spam [I meet the most interesting people there] anyone just wanted to let you know..
Looking forward to getting to know you better.

Su said...

@Petty: Now there's an idea!

@Melanie: Hello! I just started reading a Tolstoy book, so I'm especially thankful for Jane Austen. :/

Donna said...

I love the feel of a book in my hands. I suppose I could carry my laptop with me to bed, but it's just not the same.

And yeah, I want the same thing in my house (library).

Jaye Viner said...

Your technologies class sounds interesting and also frustrating. Rather I would be frustrated. I only read printed books at this point. we'll see how long that can last.

WB Terrien said...

I have both real books and ebooks - and I do love my Kindle. I do. Really can't beat it for travel and instant downloads. But I do love the books that I love, too, and they are treasures to me.

However, I did start "releasing books into the wild" a couple of years ago using Bookcrossing.com. I had so many books sitting here that wouldn't get read again (the ones I liked but didn't love), well, it just didn't make sense to me to keep them on a shelf. So now they are out in the world perhaps being enjoyed by someone else. Or something.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I did find you in my spam (ridiculous) and freed your post. :)

Gina Blechman said...

Here's my argument:
I am pro-(literal)book

You can say that, when it comes down to it, it's really just the content that you're looking for, but to me that's like saying if they found a way to manufacture porridge in a way that it filled you up and tasted EXACTLY like pizza or ice cream or whatever your favorites are, that you would be fine eating it for the rest of your life. After all, it fills you up AND you get all the flavors you crave.

But what is pizza without holding it and folding it and slurping off cheese, and what is ice cream if you can't put it on a cone and let it drip down your hand as you eat it on a hot day? I have memories of going to the bookstore and buying certain books, memories of sitting with them and scanning their pages and cover art before reading: and every book has a different feel to me. You can't get that with an e-book.

<3 Gina Blechman

J.L. Campbell said...

I really, really like books, but my ereader made accessing them a lot cheaper. I'm a far way from giving up on paper and ink books!

Su said...

Dangit, I replied to everyone and then hit the wrong button and lost them all! Trying again!

@Doreen: Looks like we commented at the same time earlier & I missed you! I get the impression that this young man (he's a student) just says things to annoy people. Hence the nickname. And thanks for saving me from the spam! :)

@Donna: Who doesn't want an in-house library, right? And I hate carrying the laptop to bed. Everywhere else, great; in bed, no.

@Jaye: It is both, yes. But they let us look at really old books, so it all evens out! :)

@WB: Great idea on releasing ones you liked but didn't love. I should start doing that, too! And thanks for rescuing me from the spam folder.

@Gina: All true, and yet the convenience of an e-reader still calls to me. Hence my fence-sitting.

@JL: The ideal (for me) would be for both kinds to stick around forever!

Tracy Krauss said...

I'm a fence sitter. I love my ereader because it is so handy to take places and I find it is also very easy on the eyes. (I can make the font bigger or smaller if I want ... etc.)
However, I don't find it is as easy to 'flip' through, or to go back to something I want to reread if i don't know the specific page. I also like the look of my books on a shelf and I'm probably more inclined to pick one of those up to 'revisit' than I am to go back to something on my reader.
In the end I think there is room for both. I can't see the ereader taking over the book market in its totality anytime soon... but I do see the need for publishers and authors to make sure they are diversifying.
It's a volatile and changing time for the industry and we need to make sure we don't get left behind.

The Writing Well said...

Hi Su, fellow campaigner here. Thanks for joining the writing well project today. I agree with all the comments above. However, I think I am more inclined to go for my Nook 100% of the time. I have always loved reading but didn't become a better reader until I received my Nook. The fact that I could tap on a word and get its meanings immediately sold me completely. I am so into knowing exactly what each word means as I read that it would frustrate me to have to look up a word when I got stumped.

Su said...

@Tracy: I always forget that I have my e-reader font set to huge until I pick up a real book and I have to squint! That's defs an advantage.

@Well: Another good point that I hadn't thought of-- I love being able to look up words instantly.

TirzahLaughs said...

One of my nephews just got into cycling. I keep telling him we can get him treatment. :) He's addicted but we're an obsessive family. You just don't bike--you go cross country..sigh. He so much like the rest of us--except I have never wanted to bike anywhere.

Anyway!!! Hi From A Fellow Campaigner.

I only dislike my ereader when they want to charge me full paperback price for the book. That's screwing me over.

I have 835 books on my Kindle. And I bought several paperbacks this month.

I like books.

You can't have too many books.

Like the radio---paper books aren't leaving but what we get in print will change.

That's the nature of the beast.


Su said...

Hee hee re: your nephew. I want to do a cross-country trip by bike someday, but... not today!

And that's a very balanced perspective. I have to agree.

Trisha said...

I'm supposed to be a young and 'hip' librarian, and yet I still haven't embraced the ebook. I think I stare at a computer enough each day not to want to stare at an e-reader screen at night or on weekends. Not that I don't go on my computer outside of work, of course. But I am with you on the loving of physical books thing. And I keep buying too many books, so my plan is to join my local library!

Su said...

Wait... you're a librarian and you aren't a member of the library??

Faith said...

I use both, and I suspect I always will. I love the full 'production' of a book and the tangible element... seeing them, holding them, admiring the artwork on the cover AND the content inside. However, I also use my ereader for books that aren't available in paper copies, and I like that I have access to hundreds of thousands of incredible books from small presses that I couldn't read otherwise.

As for chips in the brain? I do believe it will happen, possibly in our lifetime. Hopefully not at the expense of experimenting on prisoners, though... o_O

Su said...

If it does happen in our lifetime, I don't see me being an early adapter! I don't own a smart phone & can barely use one; I'd hate to find out what I'd be like with a smart brain. ;) Or would it be iBrain?

Liz said...

Walking Argument sounds like he's just in it to start the discussion. I've met some of those. If you ignore them, they'll just talk louder until they get your attention again.

I'm firmly in the ereader camp. I couldn't wait to get one. Books are heavy! Paperbacks can be cumbersome. I've lost my page many a time just because the thing slipped out of my hand.

It's so much easier to read in bed with an ereader. I can hold it in one hand. I can lie in just about any position. It's fabulous.

I get that some people love paper books. I have no issue with this. We can agree to disagree--I'll keep my ereader, and they can keep their paper books.

Su said...

I still want both! Can't I have everything?? :D

I'm starting to feel sorry for Walking Argument after today, because he seems so sincere, and everyone starts rolling their eyes and snickering when he starts to talk. And this is only week 3. I do not see this semester going well for him.

blackanddarknight said...

Hi Su! I've already fetched a comment from you out of the spam on my blog, so hopefully you won't have anymore trouble with mine :)

I'm a good old paper and ink gal, although I do find the kindle app on my ipod touch really handy to keep in my purse. I want a kindle one day, but I will always take the time to read something printed on actual paper!

There's just nothing like the comforting feel of a heavy book.

Su said...

Yay, I've been set free from spam! :) I commented on someone's WP blog earlier, don't remember whose, and it went through on the first try. So amazing!

With the direction of these comments, it sounds like we'll all be keeping traditional and e-book publishers in business for a while to come. Yay!

Kelly McClymer said...

Hi Su. Fellow campaigner here. I did find your comment in the SPAM on my blog, but I rescued it. Maybe WP will now recognize you as an unSPAMbot.

Interesting thought about what a book really is. Historically, writing has been on papyrus, stone, clay, and about every other medium man could experiment with.

Who knows what's next? I'm hoping for e-paper myself.

Karen Peterson said...

Hmmm...What if they offered the prisoner's early release in exchange for their willing participation? ;-)

My biggest reason against going completely over to eBooks is...what are we going to read during the Zombie Apocalypse when we run out of batteries?

Su said...

@Kelly: Thanks for rescuing me! And the instructor has been bringing some of the old stuff (everything from clay to palm leaves) to class for us to have a look at. I love it!

@Karen: Heh. I suppose that's marginally more acceptable... kinda. And that's another good point. Maybe we should start moving the books to the underground bunker now.