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  • Writer's picturewmwest8

Tablet vs Book

Walk down the aisle of an airplane, or around the pool of a vacation resort, and you will find that the people who choose to make this idle time less idle by reading will be holding either a book or a tablet. This phenomenon is true for just about anywhere you venture - a coffee shop, a bus, a train, a park - anywhere people need or want to be more educated, learn about other worlds, or fantasize about other worlds. We are eliminating the people watchers and the music listeners from this discussion. I am also eliminating that person sitting in a public library reading from a tablet. That’s just weird. My concern is why someone chooses to read a book from a tablet rather than a real book which can be held as if one were feeling the essence of the words within, the heart of the story and the life of the writer. Am I biased? Maybe. But then that is why I wanted to make the comparison rather than make flippant judgments about those who choose to read one way or the other.

I started asking questions. One lady turned her back on me, pulled the screen closer to her face and mumbled something about being creepy. Okay, fair enough. But I remained undaunted. To my surprise, most of the responses were all about personal preference. It’s easier to carry around one little, lightweight device rather than toting a heavy stack of books between outstretched arms and held just under the chin. Obviously only an idiot would do that. Okay, I might have done it once. This was a very practical reason though. I wanted to ask tablet readers if they had a library of books back home, but then I wanted to avoid having to explain to the police that I was not a burglar inquiring about potential victims. The book reader argues that one will read only one book at a time, and you can lift a book to you nose and smell the wonderful pages much like the anesthetizing aroma of a flower. Well, I thought there was a challenge for small computer device manufacturers to create a scratch and sniff tablet.

I asked one lady who was reading from a tablet if she was concerned about projecting an image of being a techie, or flaunting the brand of her tablet rather than what she is actually reading. This was the lady who turned her back on me. If I was looking at her to identify other labels she was flaunting, maybe I was creepy, but I didn’t think it was a crazy question. I have seen people on airplanes with every device possible - computer, tablet, cell phone, watch, headset - and wondered if they would inadvertently disrupt the flight systems and bring down the plane. On the flip side, a real book is warm and fuzzy with all the emotions pouring off the pages, and projects the image of the more traditional front porch sitting conversationalist who is eager to display the title of their book and share their thoughts with others who might connect with something silly, like “Oh, I loved that book, but I cried when her lover was murdered,” which is a part you haven’t read yet.

The cost factor is a variable for a lot of us. If the tablet reader purchases a new device every time a new device comes on the market, which invariably is just when you have learned how to use all the features of your tablet, then this form of reading will be far more expensive than buying books, whether hardback or paperback.

Yes, a tablet can do many other things besides store a warehouse of books, but that is the response of the techie who doesn’t care if others know it. Beneath that lies the gamer who will probably be playing games, not reading books. There is also the professional who creates corporate documents until she is sick of the real world and with a button, pulls up the novel to take her away from all the stress. The professional writer, however, wants the real book to write notes in margins (that’s what they’re for, isn’t it), or high-light important or memorable passages. It’s a form of study, of improvement, of pedantic cocktail conversation when you can quote from a book and leave everyone stunned, baffled, or making an excuse to go get a refill. If you only use the tablet for reading, then you could be that person who flaunts labels, unless you drive to work in a Prius, which will get you to work in the same amount of time as a Mercedes, but not exactly in the same style.

My conclusion was simple. Although how you read, whether from a book or a tablet, might be a reflection of your personality, your profession, your financial status, or your emotional stability, it is a personal choice. We shouldn’t prejudge. What we are reading, not how we are reading, is a better reflection of who we are. At least we are reading, and that’s a good conversation starter to get to know people. What can they do anyway, turn their backs on you?

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