The Data Dude – Paper v.s. eBook Smackdown

washingtonThe Dude has recently changed his line of thinking when pondering paper books v.s. eBooks. I must admit part of this realization comes from my frustration with eBook deliverers, odd pricing structures, and technologies that sometimes work less than flawlessly. At any rate, there is an awareness of preferring paper in most circumstances independent of these sorts of on and off again defects. Let’s talk about some of these reasons. Stephanie Castillo describes the different ways we read as individuals, broken down into two different categories: linear and non-linear. As Castillo notes (and you can predict), linear reading is “more thoughtful, deliberate, even meditative.” Meditative? Spectacular! All of us need a little more meditation in our lives and rarely have the time for it or put forth the effort.  Let’s think about it in the sense that paper reading might not replace your daily walks, bike rides, tai chi, or yoga sessions, but rather might supplement them. The notion that we can achieve meditative benefits from reading a book is refreshing, but not necessarily surprising. The digital age has fed this proliferation of non-linear reading. Arguably, non-linear reading is a product of what our culture has become, and overall it ain’t good. We live in short blips, never really taking time for genuine connection, either with ourselves or others. The effects of this often leave us feeling lonely, disconnected, stressed-out, rushed, and un-serene. How many times have we functioned in this way? I’m functioning this way right now when writing this blog post. It’s sad to admit but true. Having tab after tab open, writing one sentence, then moving to another tab (or monitor), then back. This lack of deep understanding in many of our lives is unfortunate, but there’s good news! It can be overcome. The bad news is that it isn’t mystical or magical. It takes work. It takes an effort to see others for who they are and to be vulnerable so they can see us. It takes effort to not only feel respect, humility, and commitment, but to demonstrate it. Recently, NPR’s Shankar Vedantam reported on a study that noted the benefits from talking to strangers while commuting on trains. Just talking to someone. The conclusion was that by overcoming initial fears, the result was that the social connection played an important role in improving our health and ultimately, increased happiness.

This brings me to my second point: Reading insecurity. Many of us have suffered from this, even though we might not have heard the term before. The notion of reading insecurity is aptly summed up by Katy Waldman, noting that a person “will tell you about how, when she was small, she could lose herself in a novel for hours, and now, all she can do is watch the tweets swim by like glittery fish in the river of time-she-will-never-get-back.” Sad, isn’t it? For the handful that have stayed with me this far, read that quote again. I recall as a youngster the nostalgic feeling she describes many times. One particular incident that sticks in my head was my first reading of Stephen King’s The Shining. I was so wrapped up in that book that I would read it late into the night, frequently looking over my shoulder because I experienced moments of sheer terror. As many of you can relate, the impact was that strong. Now, the Dude isn’t arguing that eBooks are all bad, but rather, that he has a newly acknowledged appreciation for paper. Thomas Moore summarizes this when he writes that paper books are “like pianos and oil paintings — superseded in some ways by new technologies, but not obliterated.” I think I’d agree with that assessment. In searching for a photo to correlate with this post, I found the photo above of Charles B. Washington and Nikki Giovanni examining a paper book. If you want more information about the photo, check it out on the Nebraska Memories page. Shaka.

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