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February 10

Rage Against The Machine: Books Edition

By Ella Miista
This Sunday we read an opinion article on how e-readers are the worst thing since atom bombs and karaoke machines. Essentially he says an e-book is the end of literature as art. Now, when I say ‘we read’, I really mean that I read - it’s written in Estonian which means most of you won’t be able to read the article in question. But honestly, you’re not missing out. An opinion like that is at best ignorant. Look, we love books. Standing before shelves stacked with books, old and new, as they tower above us is beautiful. The hunt for the next best read is almost ritualistic. The smell of books is infatuating. The feel of paper under your finger as you turn the page is intimate and moving. The experience becomes so physical and immersive, but a good book makes you feel that way regardless of the format. Looking at people reading books on the tube and silently judging them based on their choice is fun. Stepping into someone’s house and seeing their selection of literature is an easy yet effective way to get an idea of who they are, but ultimately it’s all irrelevant. We don’t need to judge people on public transportation, we can talk to people to find out what they’re like and most importantly, a good book will be immersive regardless of the format. The medium is sometimes important. Of course there is a difference when you choose between real or faux leather jacket. In photography a medium format film will offer a different result than a snap taken with an iPhone, or even on 35mm film. A music video shot on Super 8 looks very different to a digital high definition one. These are all conscious choices though. Yes, shooting on film is more expensive than digitally, and some fabrics are more costly than others, and of course this sometimes dictates what choice gets made, but a book consists of words. When a story is written well, it could be a paperback or bound in leather, printed on A4 or published online - it doesn’t matter. When the story is written well, you will be immersed and part of that world regardless of what you feel underneath your fingers because it’s the writer’s words that tell you what is and isn’t there. [caption id="attachment_22561" align="alignnone" width="1600"]Source unknown Source unknown[/caption] We've walked into trees reading books. We've tripped on stairs reading books. Trying to make tea, we've covered our kitchen counters in hot water while reading books. You could sit in a park waiting for a date and read through 80 pages before you realise you've been stood up, or get through a five hour Megabus journey with a crying baby on board because reading a book takes you to a different world. It's not the feel of paper, it's the writing that does that. We would never want to not experience the whole thing, with the smell and the feel and the handmade bookmark between two pages, but it's the writing that matters the most. [caption id="attachment_22560" align="alignnone" width="760"]Source unknown Source unknown[/caption] An e-reader will never live up to a book for its value as an artefact, and it cannot compare to the sentimental value of a secondhand book with scribbled notes or the ritualistic pleasure of turning pages, but to label it inherently bad is a bit of a stretch. We’re not using pictures of Kindles or Nooks to illustrate this blog post and our nightstand is still struggling under a pile of books we’re reading now and planning to read next week and then the week after, but as a part of a busy lifestyle, constantly on the move it’s irreplaceable. Our own lovely Sophie who makes sure Miistas are available around the world might be in London today but tomorrow we could find her in Tokyo or Stockholm or New York - she's constantly on the move with a Kindle in her bag. Living from a suitcase teaches people to travel light and though books are the best travel companion, they aren't the best to pack. [caption id="attachment_22559" align="alignnone" width="964"]from Elizabeth Anne DesignsFrom Elizabeth Anne Designs[/caption] There's always someone that wants to be outraged over something. Anything, even. Hey, maybe there were noblemen in 1450s Germany that had an opinion on Gutenberg printing the bible but luckily for all involved, they couldn't voice it in on a long lasting platform. You know, since Gutenberg was in charge of the printer. Jokes aside, it's easy to kick a fuss over something that isn't really worth anyone's attention. E-readers aren't here to deprive anyone of beautiful experiences or reduce the value of written word. They're here to make things easier and reading more accessible. The avant-garde writer and publisher Bob Brown dreamt of a magical reading machine in 1929 and now that we finally have it, why not enjoy the new possibilities it gives?
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