Monday, September 05, 2011

Ah, E-Readers

Here we have yet another perspective on the e-reader. This one comes from one of my favorite theoretical perspectives, that of Media Ecology. The thing I love about these guys is that they tend to be able to look at technology with a cool head, noting that any given technology is not necessarily good or evil (or if it is, it is not so for the simple-minded moralistic reasons that fundamentalists of various stripes would have us believe), but it will change things. Because of Media Ecology, now every time I hear someone praising some new form of technology and all the wonders it will bring, I can hear almost as audibly the shadow side of any given list of praises: the trade-offs, the obsolescence, which any widespread change in technology inevitably brings.

Now, every time an article like this appears, there are those--some of whom are indeed media ecologists--who in their technophility will in shrill tones denounce the complainer, and will wonder to the stars why people are so ignorant that they can't just GET ON THE BLOODY BANDWAGON and see, finally see, that we don't lose anything in the switch to digital, or anything we do lose can be made up for by a simple software upgrade, and even if we DO lose some things it's a necessary trade-off in the inevitable march of Progress, and those who wail and gnash their teeth will be seen by history as minor, unimportant breakwaters in the inevitable tide of Evolution. Thus, Mr. Grossman entirely misses the point that it is incredibly easy to do a word-search on a reading tablet, that we can (or will be able to) use all kinds of electronic bookmarks, and that anything we lose from the book can be replicated just as handily on a compact, eco-friendly screen.

For me, until the day when I can leave a tablet behind on a train (or, you know, some form of transportation that won't soon be as obsolete as books) and replace it for a fiftieth or less of what I make in a week; until the day when I trust electronic media enough to believe that things I have paid for won't evaporate at the whim of some corporate bureaucrat, and believe that somebody's idea of political correctness or making me a good citizen will not arbitrarily change certain words or phrases or entire books in my electronic library; until I see it proven that a power outage will not evaporate my entire electronic library; until I decide that it will be healthy for my ENTIRE life to consist of interfacing with screens (as opposed to just the majority of it)--for all this read: never--books will continue to be my friend and boon companion, and I will continue to sound my halcyon cries in their defense by use of this most electric form of media.

I shall diminish, and fade into the West...

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