Five Arguments Against E-Reading

1. eBook Burning: Although E-Ink impressively replicates printed text, it does have its limitations — silly putty facsimiles, for instance. Consider Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (named for the temperature at which paper burns) and imagine how the reading experience would falter if it wasn’t read in its original paper form. In the interest of accuracy, I offer the following temperatures as replacement titles:

Fahrenheit 158: The maximum functioning temperature of an E Ink display.

Fahrenheit 361: The melting point of solder, at which point the components would loosen and leave a microchip as ineffectual as a toothless old coot.

Fahrenheit 1220: The temperature you’d need to melt the microchips and achieve the effect of a good old fashioned eBook bonfire.

2. A Lesson from Mark David Chapman: While e-readers give us the opportunity to carry an entire library of books, there is something to be said for discretion. Just imagine the company J. D. Salinger would have kept if Mark David Chapman or John Hinkley, Jr. had access to e-readers. In order to avoid implicating innocent books, one should only carry a select few with you.

3. That Old Fashioned Feel: When a young British rower by the name of Olly Hicks commenced (and later abandoned) a solo expedition around the globe, he had plenty of gadgetry to keep him company. Among his companions were a Sony Reader and 3 80GB iPods, including 100 days worth of audiobooks. But even in the cramped quarters of his vessel, The Flying Carrot, he managed to find space for a few paper books. “Have begun Don Quixote which is probably slightly harder work than rowing…at just under 1,000 pages it weighs the same as a small child,” wrote Hicks in a blog post, after his Sony Reader broke. In an email interview, Expedition Manager, George Olver, said “Olly likes the old fashioned feel of a book.”

4. Bathroom Reading: When I asked Harry “Sonny” Paul, jazz musician and proprietor of the quaint Pleasant Street Books in Woodstock, VT, about his thoughts on e-readers, he said that Lawrence Durrell discovered a copy of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer in a public restroom in Egypt; the book was an inspiration to Durrell and the catalyst for a strong, enduring friendship between the two writers. “That could never happen with a Kindle,” he noted.

5. On Behalf of Bookworms: It’s common knowledge that disturbing earth’s delicate ecosystems can be disastrous for the planet’s delicate creatures. With bookstores blinking out across the country and e-readers rising in popularity, what will become of the habitat of the noble bookworm? “Silverfish certainly have adapted to old book pages,” said Gary Hevel, from the Smithsonian Institute’s entomology department. He added that if books suddenly vanished “I trust [bookworms] would be reduced in population.”

–Benjamin Samuel is an Editorial Assistant for Electric Literature. He graduated from Sarah Lawrence College, will begin an MFA at Brooklyn College this fall, and was voted by his high school as Most Likely to be Seen at the Diner.

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