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I agree with Sara Barbour on the relative sensual merits of books and Kindles. To me, Kindle reading is to book reading as popping vitamin pills is to gourmet dining: I’m getting some nutrients, but the pleasure is gone.

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However, that’s not my chief objection to Kindle and indeed all e-books and e-book readers. To me, they represent the first fateful step in the televisionization of books.

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Televisionization is the conversion of a place or a communication medium into a television-watching venue. This process began in the mid twentieth century, and it shows no sign of abating.

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I don’t own a television set. That used to mean that the only time I encountered one was when I visited someone else’s living space. Now, however, televisions are shoved into my face whenever I go out in public. They’re in my dentist’s waiting room, my credit union, my grocery store, the airport, or anywhere that I’m likely to be stationary for more than thirty seconds. I can’t even go window shopping without being assaulted by a television screen beaming marketing back out at me.

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Even worse, television is creeping, like some kind of insidious electronic mould, into anything that’s been computerized, which means almost everything these days. Phones, laptops, and tablets now serve as portable televisions. The internet itself is becoming much more television-like with the proliferation of ever more sophisticated and intrusive animations and videos on web pages.

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For most of my life, books have been a refuge for me; rather than watching television or going to movies, I read fiction for pleasure. I neither need nor want search capability, hyperlinks, pictures, animations, or videos to help me immerse myself in the story the author is telling—my brain does just fine all on its own. I certainly don’t want to be subjected to the marketing that always accompanies television.

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I have to admit that having searching and hyperlinking capability is a plus in non-fiction electronic books, but that functionality comes with hidden disadvantages. I discovered this recently when I “bought” my first electronic textbook from an online firm called CourseSmart. I assumed that after I paid my money, they would allow me to download one PDF file and use it however I pleased. Instead, I discovered that I had purchased the right to access the “eTextBook” online for the next six months. If I wanted to access the material after that, I had to pay more money. There was provision to download the book, but only ten pages at a time. Rather than owning a reference book, I was now an unwitting subscriber to a very expensive online lending library.

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Eventually, I’ll be forced to buy some sort of electronic book reader, but I’m going to stick with paper books for as long as possible. For me, the disadvantages of e-books and e-book readers outweigh their benefits; they’re not part of my missing future.

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2 Comments

  1. You will probably be horrified to find out about Bookriff… http://blog.bookriff.com/

    You can now create your own digital e-Anthology… useful for some, blasphemy to others.

    • That sounds like a useful tool. When I’m finally forced to go electronic, I’ll probably use it, at least for non-fiction.


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