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Lancaster University Library has announced ITpro e-books will be on trial until Mid November, offering thousands of documents and books in a web based environment. So why am I not particularly enchanted with this news? Why does the thought of the slim and shiny kindle bore me to death?
The answer came to me as I wondered the long corridors of the library, thumbing through old pages and breathing in that distinct book smell. However clever, however useful, e-books and other alternatives cannot offer the classic sentimental good read that a real book naturally provides. I am by no means dismissing this clever technology. Just one glance at the comment page on the library website, and e-books seem the answer to all our academic woes. Many a time have I cursed Library opening hours or more so my poor organisation. Desperate for a set text, e-books are available 24/7. I will never forget the curse of library fines on my over-stretched bank account, and the excuse that I got dates mixed up sadly doesn’t count in appeal. I could save my tattered bank notes though; fines don’t exist in the world of e-books. My local village library may offer fascinating texts on fishing, knitting, and pottery, but set texts for my demanding English Literature course are not on the shelf. No fear, the e-book is here.
Sounds enticing, so why am I desperately clinging to my dusty terribly unfashionable bookshelf? Well for starters, e-books rely on electricity and internet. Call me presumptuous but will these vital factors always be available? For those who are hailing e-books as the future, they may have forgotten the ever shrinking resource of coal, and the controversial issues surrounding alternatives such as wind power and nuclear. Whilst the majority of students have access to internet in this modern era, can we really rely on it for serious reading? Internet may be invaluable but it is certainly not a constant in my life. How many times have you cursed a dodgy internet connection? I can’t say I’d be very understanding if the connection timed out, just as I was engrossed in the ending chapter.
My biggest objection to going to bed with a good kindle is that it just isn’t natural. Many of my books are of sentimental value; I can remember my mother reading to me as a child. From the perils of Kipper to The Tiger who came to tea; my childhood reads hold a fond place in my memory. My first stuttered sentences achieved with my finger tracing the letters on the page, how could the process of learning to read be achieved with e-books? A small child staring at a computer screen just doesn’t fit, surely a child will enjoy the process a lot more with a physical object in their hand? Supporters of e-books may argue that whilst the kindle may be pricey at £89, it will save you money in the long run as e-books are far cheaper then paperback. I say you get what you pay for, and I pay to physically possess the pages, to scribble notes and return to favourite quotations time after time. In short, I pay for the experience of reading which has existed for thousands of years.
In 1455, Johannes Gutenberg printed the bible alongside other church documents, so the educated could read the holy word for themselves rather than listen to preachers. The texts of Shakespeare, Byron, and Tennyson began a historical journey as words on a physical page and rightly belong in the literary canon. The magic of classic texts is somehow lost in translation, unable to leap off a computer screen and is thus forgotten. E-books may be useful, but the real story began in the book, and can neverreally end as the pages are turned by each generation.