These articles all had slightly different aims, but their bottom line was the same: Of course you need to buy an e-reader. What are you, a Mennonite?One recent story in the New York Times went so far as to claim that iPads and Kindles and Nooks are making the very act of reading better by — of course — making it social. As one user explained, “We are in a high-tech era and the sleekness and portability of the iPad erases any negative notions or stigmas associated with reading alone.” Hear that? There’s a stigma about reading alone. (How does everyone else read before bed — in pre-organized groups?)
My fifth-grade teacher once told my parents that she was worried about my behavior. It seems that when she gave the class free time, most normal kids ran around like crack-addled chimpanzees, “but Damian goes off in a corner and reads a book by himself!” So I suppose there always has been that sort of stigma.
But like I said before, I think it’s encouraging to consider that a fair number of people in addition to Silvers and myself are likely reacting against that very mindset, the one that sees someone sitting alone with a book, ignoring the outside world, and starts thinking up ways to “improve” the experience. No doubt a number of people will think e-readers are the greatest thing ever, and we’ll hear all their stories dutifully repeated in the media ad nauseum for the next several years. But the rest of us will carry on buying actual books as long as they’re available, even taking an elitist pride, perhaps, in being part of an underground clique.
I smiled at this part:
That was part of it, I realized, trying to analyze my own ridiculous, knee-jerk judgment of this stranger. I couldn’t see what she was reading, and it bothered me. I couldn’t peer in that tiny window onto someone’s interior world, or delight in the juxtaposition that a book choice sometimes presents — when you notice a stuffy, 90-something grandma buried in a trashy romance novel, or a would-be gangsta engrossed in “Love in the Time of Cholera.”
I always love sneaking a peek at what other people are engrossed in reading, and even a surly misanthrope like me can appreciate the unexpected conversations that can bloom from someone noticing your own book and commenting on it. I first met my friend/co-blogger Arthur when I was training him on a job. As I was putting some stuff I needed to carry along in a backpack, he noticed the cover of the book I was reading, Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline in Western History. “Whoa!” he exclaimed. “Are you some kind of egghead?” “Some kind,” I said. And we spent so much time bullshitting about history, politics, literature, philosophy and current events that day that I never did train him properly, and he ended up quitting the job soon after. But I’m sure we’d both say it was worth it!