This weekend I met a mid-40s lady, Betty, who was struggling to upgrade her old 2014 MacBook Pro, despite it having a large crack on her screen, with the newer USB-C powered MacBook Pros. We had an interesting conversation about technology, and in the end, I could not convince her to try new technology. This got me thinking about my own views with digital reading, as I could somewhat empathize with Betty. I’m quite a traditionalist with my reading habits; I just can’t quite get into audiobooks or ebooks. However, to not be a hypocrite with the opinion I shared with Betty, I recognize that I must move forward, that perhaps reading must also move forward to digital technologies and future advances.
The traditionalist in me can’t give up the overall feeling I get from reading print books. It is pure magic; it is unlike anyone experience there is in our lives. Perhaps it’s partly because of the ownership that comes with books, the physical aspect as I’ve learned in Professor Hannah McGregor’s class about the history of “The Book” and the effect of its tangibility, social & cultural value from a physical object. A new study shows that millennials actually prefer print books to ebooks, outlining that there is a strong factor of emotion that comes to play when making an opinion about books.
While almost everyone expressed a strong attachment to physical books, and no one embraced a fully digital reading experience, older consumers, contrary to what one might expect, saw more advantages than younger consumers to reading with an e-reader. They referenced physical benefits that might not be as relevant to younger consumers, such as the lightweight nature of e-readers and the ability to zoom in on text (Alexis Blue-U, University of Arizona).
To support this idea, I was able to find a popular Reddit thread that outlined many users’ everyday reasons for not liking ebooks: “For some strange reason, I get nauseous when reading from an e-reader.”, “I live in a large city and rely on public transit. It is less likely that I would be mugged for my book than I would be for my kobo, kindle, or iPad.”, “Formatting. With e-books, some pages are just a mess.”, “I like taking my book down to the beach and I’m afraid of getting sand all in its components.” Could there be more traditionalist Bettys than I thought?
I think I’m more interested in learning about the technology that advances digital reading experiences than the actual technology that currently exists. I understand that ebooks can be more practical and economical for many consumers, but I’m more interested in how we can apply the emotional value from the physicality of a book onto digital reading experiences because I know we can get there. Like AI technology, I believe we can get to a point where man meets machine, which is a scary thought, but I know it is happening. As we lose the traditions from generations before, I wonder if we are able to keep memories and moments of the past and include it in future technology.
Betty shared with me that one of her greatest reasons for her hesitancy is fear. She fears trying something that’s foreign to her because she’s afraid of forgetting what she already knows. Perhaps this is an inherent fear in all of us, with change, with technological advances, with the future. We can treasure traditional print reading and we can be curious about new digital reading ways. Perhaps there isn’t one greatest form of reading, but the very act of reading is what makes the experience the greatest of all. I hope one day Betty will have the courage and try the new MacBook Pro with touch bar. I’ll start by downloading an ebook for my guilty pleasure reading.