Should Modern Readers Go Back To Printed Editions?

A writers view on the complex decision between new age and older timed reading patterns.

Reading style is shifting, and reading materials are developing into innovative formats. Reading (noun) is the skill or activity of getting information from books; the process of constructing meaning from written texts- comprehending and actively responding to what is read. Paper books are the most notorious book form, but the computer age is making electronic reading, a norm. E-Books refer to (electronic books and digital books) book-length publications in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both and produced on, published through, and readable on computers or other electronic devices. To read an e-book, readers need access to a computer, a cell phone, or an e-reader. Print books are written or printed work consisting of pages, glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers. So, it seems it is either tangible or intangible.

Why should I be called a modern reader? What does that even mean? I love my books, and I mean, printed books. They have the advantage of resale value, reading ease, health safety, no devices needed, no batteries or electricity required, no warranties needed, it is easier to lend (or borrow), and the academic thrill of browsing a bookshop or library and settling to read the book is matchless. There are times I cringe at the thought of holding a print book also, and e-books save the day. Electronic Books or e-readers encourage speed, font adjustment, night reading, dictionaries, and translations, storage-environment friendly, travel ease, notes or marks made can be erased, they don’t clutter up your house, and they are easier to review or revise, and have been lauded by several authors and educators as cost-saving though, it is dauntingly argued that screen reading causes more stress and exhaustion and requires more effort than paper reading. Many book-lovers turn to e-books for convenience and practicality while still buying printed books to join their libraries.

Reading is good for the mind. There is a saying that- a book a day, keeps the doctor away. I appreciate that the readers of the past are not the readers of today, and the students, teachings, and institutions of the past are not the same as the present. It may be difficult for some adults who were taught and read in print, to build themselves to becoming ‘modern readers’, but times are changing. E-reading is the inevitable change to a more technologically driven ‘developed’ environment.

Take Nigeria for instance, she lags behind the developed world in terms of the development and application of relevant technology and this accounts for why e-books and virtual libraries are in their embryonic stage in my Country. This does not mean there is no future. Internet usage in Nigeria is improving and computer literacy is growing fast. Mobile phones slowly saturated the Nigerian economy, but today, its market is vibrating with growth, providing jobs to millions of her people. Readers are increasingly demanding e-books, even though they are not outdistancing print books. No! I cannot love the feel of my hands as it brushes across the book I write on, any less. Publishers and writers express that “We are far from any e-book readership in Nigeria, except we just want to pretend we are part of a global phenomenon…It is cheap, but the market (eBook) is not a Nigerian market.” As technology improves in Nigeria, the community of electronic book users and lovers increases also.

The preference for E-textbooks in most societies will be inevitable despite the stretch, phases, and struggle, and may be met with resistance, as all changes do. Supporters of printed books like myself, cite the sentimental value “real books” hold-, that books have provenance, that they possess the quality of scarcity; which means that your copy is distinctive on some level, the book smell, the amassing of a substantial library, the feel of the book in your hands, its physical nostalgic beauty, that printed books are collectible, and the physical presence of a book itself, starts to embody the experience; the design, the typos, printing quirks are memories related to the form of that specific edition, cultivated by spending time with a paper book, that an e-book cannot replicate, despite the benefits of social highlighting, archived notes, multimedia features, look-up of words, search links, lighter weight, portability, space savings, flexibility, user choice, storage and general convenience of an e-reader, or e-book, etc. I do not feel much ownership of e-books because of their impermanence and intangibility, I think of using an e-book, not owning an e-book. When I like an electronic book, I go out and try to get the paper version simply because I prefer a print edition.

However, encouraging the use and reading of e-books is a gradual step to revitalizing and creating an unconscious adaptability process to the use of ICT and the internet, and a growing metamorphosis in the attitude towards technology, especially in developing nations. Printed editions need not raise a clarion call to readers, as, through history, readers, writers, and knowledge seekers know no better form of preservation than what prints and paper writings offer. The world is gradually marching towards a paperless society. Regardless of preservation, but of preference in reading choice, what any reader opts for, depends on the location, and what is being read, and though, every reader in today’s world should be adept at deriving essence from the two reading forms, being a modern reader is not refereed by your book or reading form preference, but the ability to be economically and structurally adaptive, and most importantly, loving the essence of reading itself; regardless of the booking form.

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