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DAREarts’ Young Writers: Grad Kelsey Bhatia’s "Tech Too Far"

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Tech Too Far

By Kelsey Bhatia

“Have you seen our new e-reader?” an employee at a bookstore asked me one day.

“No, I haven’t,” I responded, my enthusiasm forced on his behalf. I’d been asked about these devices before, all my friends and family bringing them up in conversation due to my avid reading addiction.

I was quite pessimistic.

Nevertheless, I picked up one of the e-readers, staring at the type across the non-glare screen, and thought about my friends that went on and on about how far technology had come; how amazing these new e-readers truly were; how I absolutely should own one because I read so much.

But there was something wrong with the feeling of this little machine. It didn’t feel right in my hands. The e-reader was programmed to Pride and Prejudice, which brought a small smile to my lips, but then I recalled my two copies of the same book at home.

Looking around me for curious on-lookers I lifted the e-reader to my nose and took a whiff. The smell of plastic came through, as well as that strangely acrid smell of nothing. I didn’t get any dust, I couldn’t smell the paper pages just waiting to be poured over…It didn’t feel like a book.

I turned the e-reader over in my hands and stared at the flat back. There were no reviews there, no summaries I could deny or praise, and when my thumb instinctively went to flip through the pages the plastic refused to move. I couldn’t leave a print on the page I was about to turn. There would never be a sweaty thumb mark embedded there forever, and I would never be reminded of that scene that had my heart thumping.

I stared down at the screen once more and pressed a button. The screen went blank for a moment, blinked black once, then showed the next page of the story. There was no flash of excitement in my chest as I glimpsed the words I’d soon be reading. The thrill of turning the page and knowing that the book went on was lost on this little device, as was the sound of paper on paper that could make any book-lover look up to investigate.

“They’re very popular,” said the employee, but all I could do was shrug and put the e-reader down. I left and made my way upstairs, drifting along the aisles and taking deep breaths. There was the smell I loved; the true smell of literature.

The story is only part of the book. Your heart gets invested in the characters, the plot, the location, but you can also make a bond with the physical being itself. What did the pages smell like the first time you opened it? What did they smell like after you’d read it? Where were you when you read that scene that made your breath hitch? Did you spill your coffee on the cover while riding the subway?

There’s a kind of feeling in a book that you can’t get from a slim little device in your hand, and even though it may be more convenient and perhaps more popular, it’s just not the same. The crack of the spine, the shine of the cover, the yellowing pages of a book you’ve read a thousand times…I can look at my bookshelf and smile, remembering each book that rests there, and it’s not just the story.

The physical pages hold my memories, feelings and emotions. And you can’t get that from a screen.

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2 thoughts on “DAREarts’ Young Writers: Grad Kelsey Bhatia’s "Tech Too Far"

  1. As an avid e-reader and an e-book author, I have to respectfully disagree. I can dog-ear the pages, circle or highlight text I want to revisit,and jot notes in margins. There is an index to direct me back to those notes later! I have 60 books on my reader at present. They represent about 110 linear inches of books on a shelf in 1/2 an inch. As an English teacher, I need all the space breaks I can get. I order library books, and after 21 days, they expire. No more overdue books! This alone is saving me a fortune. I love the smell of paper and ink, too. I love hand stitching, binding and creating books. I love my letter pressed 200 year old books and the cook book my grandmother brought from England in 1906. Times change. If they didn't, we'd still be reading from cuneiform tablets, and after checking out those at The Louvre last year, I am glad not be packing a diorite stele around with my copy of the Hammurabi code!This is a 'medium is the message' kind of debate. The story happens in the imagination of the author, in the words, and in the connections made by the reader. Whichever way the story is presented, 'the story's the thing.' A book is just a book. The words rattling around in your head after you've read the book, THAT'S story. That's life breathed into the universe of narrative.

  2. I hope a compromise can be reached here. My hope is that e-readers will not replace books. I too enjoy the feel, sound and smell of real books. I'm happy to hear that younger people also appreciate the realm of the hand held, page flipping; cover to cover medium. I can see the convenience, portability, and time saving qualities of an e-reader, but I would hate for society to lose the choice of having bindings, shelves, bookstores (new and used), and libraries.

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