Let's hear it for the book!
I love Lenny Abramov, the protagonist of Gary Shteyngart's wicked satire of a tech-crazed, dystopian America in serious decline, Super Sad True Love Story. Okay, so he's a bit of a loser. His taste in clothes is horrendous. He's out of shape. He's definitely not fashion-forward in his choice of tech gizmos, either. So what attracts me to Lenny? He loves books -- or, as the novel calls them, "bound, printed, non-streaming Media artifacts."
In my libraries this year, I will be celebrating these amazing creations that have been around for over 500 years (in printed form, thanks to J. Gutenberg) and will, I hope, be around for at least another 500 (though I won't be around to enjoy them). I am no Luddite, but let me sing the many praises of the low-tech book.
I have long been curious as to differences in reading on paper as opposed to reading in an electronic format, and, frankly, I am concerned that e-readers (in all formats) do not promote "deep" reading. Now the results of studies are beginning to trickle in. For example, a grad student at the University of Washington, Alex Thayer, completed research on the use of Kindles among academics. His findings indicate that e-readers were useful for what he calls "receptive reading," that is, simply reading from start to finish in a straight line, without much depth. (Think summer beach book). However, the e-format was not very good for what he calls "responsive reading," which involves a deeper interaction with the text to build knowledge. Hmmmm... For further reading on this provocative topic, I suggest Nicholas Carr's examination of the Internet's effect on our reading and thinking processes, The Shallows.
Then, there is the matter of all the electronic waste we are fast-accumulating. What's going to happen to all those old Kindles and Nooks and iPads, when the next generation comes along? Something tells me they will wind up smouldering in a dump in China (after the precious metals have been extracted).
Books have been and always will be fully recyclable.
So let's hear it for something that:
1. is portable.
2. won't break if you drop it.
3. you can loan to friends and if they lose it, well, it's not the end of the world.
4. you can use a cute bookmark to note where you left off.
5. doesn't need batteries or recharging.
6. are free (at your local library).
7. lightweight yet durable.
8. come with attractive covers.
9. come in all different kinds (think genres).
10. let you use your imagination.
11. can take you all over the world (and to new worlds).
12. help you learn how to FOCUS (maybe the most important skill of all).
So thanks, Lenny, for appreciating those "bound, printed, non-streaming Media artifacts." May they live forever.
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