On Reading in the Digital Age
I’ve taken to reading more regularly. As someone who’s spent near on 30 per cent of their life in university, in law and the humanities, reading comes naturally. Yet the decision to take it up again has been unnecessarily difficult. My preferred time to read is before I sleep, in bed, with two large pillows propped up against my back. I’m lazy, so getting up to turn off the light once I’m already tucked in is something look to avoid. And, for no ostensible reason, I maintain a strong aversion to bedside lamps - to me they are the preserve of hotel rooms and age old Victorian terraces with lacy bedsheets.
Until recently, I had thought that an iPad or Amazon Kindle would solve my dilemma - I could sit in the still darkness of night, my face glowing and my hands warm from the heat emanating from the innumerable light emitting diodes that made up the screen. And yet, when I had read as much as I desired for the evening, I could press the home screen button on my iPad and turn it off, again enveloped by darkness where slumber would come to me quickly. Never would there be a need for me to get up, to move six feet to my left to flick a light switch. A cure for my laziness, from only $539 AUD.
But what of books and what of libraries? What would happen if everyone took to reading through an ‘eBook’ - whether for laziness, like me, or expediency and convenience - what would be the consequence? What of the smell of an old book from the library, paper barely held together by an antiquated binding method. The scent of dated paper subjugated by the redolent newness of an iDevice. Instead of the wondrous sensory pleasure of turning a page, the ever so slight noise of a finger on paper is replaced by human flesh gliding along on glass. A cacophony of circuit boards and computer chips in the palm of my hands - powerful, yes - but at what cost?
Words that look no different on a screen to words on trees, but in place of ink are in fact an intricate binary chain of 0s and 1s, articulated to appear like the literary works that they purport to be. But things are not all they seem in this digital age. The medium is fast becoming the message, and we may well spawn future generations who never experience this familiar pleasure of turning pages. My bigger fear is that perhaps they won’t even care, which is why it’s my duty to keep turning off the light.