Words, Words, Words

So as I sit here, I had a completely different idea for what to write for this, my first Algonquin Studios blog post. Then I took a look around and did a quick inventory; within arms reach I have the following:

  • My trusty tablet (on which I am happily typing this post)
  • My Kindle e-reader
  • My Android phone
  • My wife’s Kindle Fire
  • My daughter’s tablet (yeah, I know)
  • And, of course, the television remote control

And that’s just within arms reach. If you wandered my house, you’d find two additional Kindles, a random mp3 player, laptops, PCs, and more. All of which, aside from the mp3 player (probably only due to lack motivation on my part) can either connect to the internet or can use one of the other devices to do so.

At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old man, when did we become so utterly dependent on technology? But, more importantly, is that dependence really such a bad thing?

Sure, it’s become nearly impossible to disconnect from the digital/mobile world without physically locking your electronic devices in the basement. Even as I write this I’m getting texts, calls, and emails from friends and heaven forbid I don’t respond to those people within minutes, they’ll string me up for being “off the grid.”

And it’s important to fight the good fight–to actually get out of the house and off the devices (especially when you have kids). As someone who takes at least week off every year to go out to the middle of the woods and pretend that technology doesn’t exist, I’d like to give myself credit for making an effort. Kinda.

I say “kinda” because I do make a teeny tiny exception when it comes to my annual trip to Allegany State Park. That exception comes in the form of the one device that causes lots of conversation between the plugged-in and luddite camps–my Kindle. The e-reader debate has its own set of pros and cons, but the one that comes up the most seems to be “Books vs. Words.”

On one side, we have the “book” people. I know you well because I was one of you for a long time. We all love books. They feel great in your hand and there’s nothing like picking up a book and feeling the paper between your fingers. I bet you can even smell a book right now–paper-y goodness. Plus, book stores are a dying breed and that’s certainly not a good thing. I realize a large part of the problem is due to the big box stores forcing them out with lower prices and greater convenience, but I also believe the electronic movement contributes to the steady slide of locally-owned (and chain) book stores.

So what pushed me from the side of the book lovers into the world of the e-reader enthusiasts?

Words. Reading. Stories.

I originally picked up my Kindle as a toy. I purchased it as a gift for myself, quite a few years ago, with some tax return money and it was more of a curiosity than anything else. Then I realized something; this “toy” made it incredibly easy to get my hands on books. And not just books, any book. Any book I could possibly imagine was available to me, anywhere I decided I wanted it. Whether I was in my house, backyard, local park, or office lunch room, if I wanted a new book I could get one.

This realization helped me to rediscover something I hadn’t thought about in a while: I absolutely love to read. I’ve read (insert ridiculously high number for sake of argument) times more books since I bought that first Kindle than I’d read in all the years leading to that point. When you consider that most e-books are much cheaper than their paper versions and that you can borrow from many local library systems for free, it’s even better.

Books no longer need to be the stuff of the elite or well-educated. If technology can put a good book in front of a person who wouldn’t normally read one, this is a good thing. My Kindle did just that and it took my reading to another level. We shouldn’t look down on something just because it may not be what we’re used to and it shouldn’t matter if a book is written on paper, stone, or the sidewalk. The idea is to get books into the hands of people who want to read them. Whatever the most efficient way to do that is, let’s do it!

I guess that’s my point. We’re surrounded by technology every day. We can’t get away from it and when we notice this, our knee-jerk reaction might be to be put off by it. But we need to make sure that when we feel technology is creeping in, we’re not automatically dismissing it as useless, silly, or disruptive. I still believe it’s good to disconnect every so often but that doesn’t mean I’m going to leave my Kindle at home this summer when I go camping. What would I read if I did?

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