I love books. In second grade, I blew my eyes out reading in the dark. I’ve been known to read while I eat my cereal, while I take a bath and while I mow the lawn (books on tape are fantastic). A few months ago, I made the decision to purchase the Amazon Kindle so I could read whatever I wanted to almost anywhere, without having to carry an entire library with me.
Therefore, upon reading “A book is not a Nook,” the perspective by Kate Stoltzfus in last week’s Record decrying the proliferation of e-readers, my Kindle-owning hackles were raised.
I do not believe that the spread of Kindles and Nooks will cause the downfall of a part of our culture; rather, I believe that we are witnessing a new Reformation.
The e-reader is our generation’s printing press. Suddenly, our access to printed material has been increased by an incalculable amount. The Kindle library alone offers access to over two million books for free; I myself have downloaded over 20 books, ranging from “Pride and Prejudice” to “A Tale of Two Cities,” for absolutely nothing. Strangely, after purchasing “Pride and Prejudice,” Amazon also placed a book called “Masculinity for Dummies” on my Kindle.
Further, the e-reader surpasses a book in its ease of transport and use in difficult places. I can read textbooks while I work out on the elliptical in the Rec-Fit, and if sweat obscures my vision (as it often does), I can increase the font size. As for travel, I spent SST with at least 15 percent of my suitcase filled by books (I read 12 just while on service). This summer though, as I travel Europe, I’ll have much less to carry, and more room for souvenirs.
Finally, just because we have e-readers does not mean that the medium of the book will disappear. Just as radio did not end live concerts, movies did not end live theater, and iPods did not end the sale of physical music, eBooks will not mean the end of physical books. As gifts, I prefer to receive a physical book. I still buy books that I value in physical form. And there’s no way I’m going to carry my Kindle with me to the toilet; my copy of The Great American Bathroom Reader will not make the transition to e-book anytime soon.
The e-reader, be it Kindle or Nook, is not the end of the physical, written word. Rather, it is the next step in spreading the power of the written even farther than Johannes Gutenberg could have imagined. We are suddenly able to cary entire libraries with us and access new books in minutes. While paper books make great heirlooms, this new spread of information and culture can only greater knowledge and understanding.
By Matt Lehman is a senior Bible and religion and theater major.