Monday, June 9, 2008

A Book By Any Other Name…

There is, and always will be, opposition to change.

Vaudeville performers walked off the job to protest silent films. They took a stand against change. Silent film actors quivered at the mere mention of the talkie. They feared change and rightly so. It must have been a very uncomfortable feeling, like the rug was slowly being pulled out from under their feet; they saw it, they felt it, but they couldn't stop it.

That is the essence of change, it is not only inevitable but impossible to prevent. Change, on a grand, some might say global, scale, is brought on in many cases by technological advances. Theatre – radio – film – television, a natural progression where the next technological breakthrough certainly had an impact on the last, but it did not destroy it. We have radio despite television. We have theatre despite film. In a way, they complement each other by allowing a ravenous audience more choices.

Technology is once again the culprit in bringing on change in a media that has seen little over hundreds of years.

Where once books had to be stored in huge libraries, thanks to advancements, that same library can fit on a single computer hard-drive. Not everyone is convinced this change is for the good. It’s truly a bibliophile’s nightmare since the tactility and sensory experience of reading is removed. Now one turns pages at the cold push of a button on computer keyboards ranging from one that sits atop a desk, to one that rests in the palm of your hand. The smell of ink and paper gone, the feel and sound of paper turning, sliding through your fingers as your eyes land on something soft on the vision but always a possible sensory overload.

Sheldon Comics

It’s difficult to accept change when really, there is no need for it. The onslaught of electronic media is brought on not by necessity but by the simple fact that we need to use the technology in some way. Is there anything wrong with that? Is it so bad that we can have all the books we love, at our fingertips, in one device that fits into a pocket or a small briefcase? Is it not the voice on the radio that carries the message and not the radio itself? It would stand to reason that the words are more important than the book.

Why do we fight change so vehemently when the change is for the better?

I’m an e-book author and I read e-books. Does that mean I want traditional books to disappear? Of course not. Who among readers doesn’t love to sit in a cozy spot on a cold or wet night, book open on their lap, immersed in the pleasure of reading? No electronic gadget stands a chance of replacing something so dear and precious. Can a child’s book on a computer screen compare to the touch of a book open on the floor, its bright colours mirrored in the wondrous eyes that read it? No. When you want to upgrade a radio, you buy the newest version of a radio – and it’s still a radio. The same goes for televisions. I’ve gone through a dozen in my lifetime, but all were televisions. The same cannot be said for a traditional book.

So, why not fight e-books with all our page-turning, cozy-cornered, wide-eyed reading wonder of energy? Simply because traditional books and e-books complement each other like radio and television, theatre and film. Choices are the byproduct of change. As readers, we now have the ability to choose which format our reading pleasure will take given our circumstances at the time. When would you choose a Kindle or E-reader over a paperback or hardback? During a morning commute on any mode of public transit. While traveling it would be an ideal space saver in any suitcase. These are just a few examples.

Where then would one relax with a book, enjoying it’s simplicity and tradition? At home, the coffee shop, the beach…

When it comes to books, traditional or electronic, there’s room for both.

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