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Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Real Difference between a Book and an E-Book

It is a matter of the way you read it. I know a man who brags he reads a thousand books on his Kindle. I don't doubt it.  The Kindle takes a book and turns it into the equivalent of an IPOD tune or a picture on your hard drive. Getting rid of the physicality of the book changes it. We no longer experience the book we experience an E File on a hard disk that is not so different from any other file on a hard drive. It has to be dealt with and then returned to oblivion. So the real difference between a book and an E Book is the experience.

One experiences a book. Literature we experience pulp we finish. In other words the ebook becomes something to be dealt with quickly. Accomplished. It goes back to that old saying that Midwesterners read for self improvement while Southerners read for pleasure. What are we reading for then with an Ebook? Is it the I better watch so many hours of Jeopardy so my brain doesn't turn to mush morphed into I better read this book so I can get to the next book and the next book so I can eventually say I read a thousand books.

Take it another way. The physical creature in our lap changes the experience. The book is experienced as a thing .The page turns slowly. It falls to the next page. The digital experience is a swipe a silent movement of a page appearing and then vanishing for the next silent swipe. Like a painting versus a picture of a painting the experience is changed. Ask anyone who prints out a picture versus looking at it on your phone. One is ephemeral the other is there for all time

So we may think we have all the answers with our Kindles and Nooks but like the IPOD the experience has morphed and changed. Digitization is all bout economy and convenience. That was never art and never will be.

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Books by William Hazelgrove