Digital literature replaces traditional books

Ian Howard | Staff Writer

Amidst the hundreds of books in Mason High School’s Media Center, Media Specialist Virginia Robinson said she peruses page after page of literature in a different format. According to Amazon.com, the Kindle, released in 2007, has rapidly become the site’s bestselling item.“I carry it with me everywhere I go,” Robinson said of her Kindle.

According to Robinson, downloading reading materials is much more convenient than buying physical books and can result in much more extensive portable collections.

“I probably have around 50 [books] on there,” Robinson said. “It’s much cheaper than buying the book itself.”

Despite popular affinity for the Kindle, English teacher Fred Reeder said he is torn between the good and the bad of the Kindle.

“You certainly can replace books with the Kindle, but you really can’t replace the experience of reading the book,” Reeder said.

The Kindle also has users in a younger crowd. Senior Christina Vuotto said she uses the Kindle so much that she no longer purchases books.

“I like technology and I like reading, so it seemed like a pretty good idea,” Vuotto said.

But when it comes to literary tradition, Reeder said that he enjoys the printed text.

“On Sunday morning, I want the actual newspaper in my hand with my coffee; I don’t want to go on the computer to read the stories,” Reeder said.

In contrast, Robinson said that she now finds more comfort reading from the Kindle than reading actual books.

“I read the whole series of Harry Potter this summer.” Robinson said. “I had never read that before, and I got very tired of holding the big book, because [J.K. Rowling] doesn’t let any of her books go to e-format.”

It is difficult to oppose the Kindle on academic grounds, according to Reeder.

“Whatever gets you to read, I don’t care in what form and I don’t care what you read,” Reeder said.

Junior Chris Flake is another student to which Reeder’s statement refers. Flake said that he believes his Kindle has reached virtual technological perfection.

“The only down part to it is the backlight,” Flake said. “There’s no backlight to it, so you can’t read at night.”

Even this problem has ceased in some other reading devices, such as the Sony Reader that include a backlight, according to Honors English III teacher, Ann Helwig.

“You can also turn on the little light and read it in the back of the car when you’re driving along,” Helwig said.

Helwig said that she makes many sacrifices with her reading device, but it is worth it.

“I like the smell of books, but those of us who are readers, we are used to reading things like cereal boxes and billboards and people’s shirts; we don’t have a huge preference, we have an obsession,” Helwig said.

Along with ridding intimacy with the text, according to Helwig, buying bestsellers on reading devices can be expensive when compared to buying used books.

“[I use it] mostly for convenience and fun,” Helwig said.

According to Flake, the reading device is more practical in nearly every way to the printed text.

“If you read a normal book and you read it for an hour straight, then your eyes start hurting and they get all watery and you want to put it down and take a break; for the Kindle you don’t have to do that,” Flake said.

Vuotto said she can see the Kindle’s practicality beyond casual reading.

“I think [Kindles] probably will [replace books] in the future,” Vuotto said.

Vuotto has used the Kindle as a primary reading material in class and she said that it is much easier than using a book.

“You can find [quotes] — if you type something in you can find it very easily in any text,” Vuotto said.

Flake also said he enjoyed using the Kindle more than he would a regular book when he read for a summer assignment in Creative Writing. Reeder said he is skeptical of what effect a complete replacement of books with Kindles would have.

“[Kindles] can replace books, you just don’t get the same feeling with a Kindle that you do with the actual book,” Reeder said.

Trading all classroom literature for reading devices still would have its positives, according to Helwig.

“Wouldn’t you like that — not having to lug your books all over the place, especially the big fatty [books],” Helwig said.

Many reading devices have an annotation tool, making them a feasible transition from the physical text in the English classroom.

“I can make notes and highlight, just as if I had an actual book,” Robinson said.

Reeder said that despite the convenience of the Kindle, it is an unnatural incarnation of the text. The physical text has certain timeless capabilities that a Kindle may never possess, according to Reeder.

“I love picking up old books and seeing my thoughts from them 20 years ago,” Reeder said. “With a Kindle, I wouldn’t have that.”

In addition the Kindle lacks many books in its Amazon.com store and other reading devices have similar problems. According to senior Alex Chernyakhovsky, readers should choose between the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes and Noble Nook and the Sony Reader based on which online book library they enjoy the most, instead of which has the best features.

The technology of reading devices is no longer a matter of how much a reader can accept the shortage of tradition, according to Helwig: it is a must have for all readers.

“You have to have one,” Helwig said. “If you’re a reader how can you not get one of these?”

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