Dead Trees and Pixels (or Creativity Is The Real Answer)

Dead Trees and Pixels (or Creativity Is The Real Answer)

by James Landrith

crustmania / Foter / CC BY

The e-books vs. dead tree media discussions and snobbery fascinates me. People frequently post self-congratulatory articles (from online versions of publications, of course) bemoaning the existence of e-books. I have a few thousand hard copy books in my own library. I read them. I use them as references. I have prized copies, autographed first editions and out-of-print titles I had to work to get. I have also been reading e-books since I got my first PDA in 1996. It was a Palm IIIx, which I upgraded to an xe by adding additional memory and a new OS. I’ve read hundreds of books and novellas on Palm, Apple and Nook devices for 19 years now. My eyes have not melted out of my head and I haven’t participated in any book burnings as a result. I still have library cards for Fairfax County and DC and use them.

While there are definite concerns about author compensation models for digital publishing, that is a different issue from the existence and adoption of e-books as a medium. Those concerns are also present with some variations for print media compensation models.

I read both dead tree and e-books. I’ve started a book in paper and finished it digitally when the paper copy grew legs. I have many autographed books (Anne Rice, Orson Scott Card, Ashley Montagu, etc.) that have never been read in paper form. I’ve downloaded them digitally to read. That copy won’t get dog eared and raggedy in my messenger bag. It will remain in excellent condition in my collection. Like Ron Burgundy, I also have many leatherbound books and keep those looking nice on the shelf. I’ve read some of those at home, but they don’t come with me on the train or to lunch, where I do the majority of my reading.

Yeah, e-readers can experience power loss from the battery needing to be charged. Of course, most e-reader applications are accessible from multiple devices now, so if my Nook is lacking a charge, I can keep going on my iPhone or a PC. On the flip side, I can also leave a paper book on the train or bus or spill my coffee all over it resulting in the same problem. Neither format is immune from loss or damage. Well, the e-books are in my account and can be downloaded again and again and again as I desire, but they can be temporarily unavailable due to lack of a device. Both publishing formats have advantages and disadvantages. I still don’t understand all of the animosity with regard to reading words on a screen. The paper does not make me smarter. The paper does not affect my ability to understand the story, message, character development or plot any better. Yes, I can smell an old book and appreciate the texture and age. I do enjoy picking up an old book and thinking about how many times it has been read by others over the years. Then again, I can also hit download and get started on another e-book when I finish the one I was wrapping up 15 minutes into my lunch break.

eBook Readers Galore
libraryman / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

How are those who prefer paper copies being hurt by the existence of e-books? I fail to see the harm they personally are experiencing or the need for such a negative emotional response toward others who read e-books. True, a significant amount of titles are not available in paper form. Of course, many titles NEVER would have been available in paper form anyway due to publishing costs and the huge amount of scams and frauds present in the industry, so that issue is a bit more complicated than it seems.

The disadvantages for each format are not significant enough in either direction to cause me to get emotional and angry about the existence of either format. It makes no sense and I don’t see how expending so much emotion is helpful anyway. I wonder if the same pearl-clutching and snobbery was at hand when publishing moved from hand-copied endurance trials to machine reproduction?

Honestly, I’d rather be writing and reading than getting upset about how others write and read.

Be creative or enjoy creations. Stop being upset about how others create. Why is that so hard?

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