Up in a cabin with nothing but my kindle I downloaded the NY Times and read Lev Grossmans piece on the limitations of the digital format versus what he called the the codex (book) which evolved from the scroll. He says if anything we are not making enough of the change. He is right and he winds up his piece saying the constrictions of the digital format is it's undoing. He is right. You cannot go from the end to the beginning with the kind of ease of a book. You cannot find a page you wanted and then shoot ahead and back again to the place you wanted to be. Ebooks are just harder to navigate and they do feel contained.
Saying that Grossman finishes up saying that he will stick with the book. It is everyones choice and I understand his frustration. Reading on the ereader is very different. You just don't have that physical book in your lap to tear to pieces and mark up and read and jump around in. It's almost like the story is caged and you can't quite get to it. But here is why the new medium trumps all. Convenience. Humans move to convenience like ships to water. I can think of no better example than sitting up in Wisconsin and reading Levs article and then the entire NY Times Sunday paper in a cabin in middle of the woods.
There was no way for me to do this at my in laws place before. The town five miles away had the Milwaukee Journal and if you drove further to a grocery store you could get the Chicago Tribune. But NY Times, no way. But I read Lev's piece and then Maureen Dowd and here was the big thing, I could drop it on the couch and then fall asleep and then pick up where I left off. I would have never read any of this without the ability to snatch the newspaper out of thin air.
And I have written about the limitation of reading the NY Times on the Kindle and I stand by preferring the paper over the digital. But there is no doubt that conveniencewill trump everything. We are only getting busier and more pressed for time. Going to a bookstore or to a grocery store will be a luxury we will pass on because it's just so much easier to sit in our cabin and start reading. The scroll gave way to the Codex for much the same reason. It was just so much easier to read.