Saturday, March 14, 2009

One thing paper can do that laptops and phones can't

I may have been risking my life in a nerdy version of the stereotypical blond using a hairdryer in the bath tub when I gingerly balanced my laptop over the edge of my bubble bath this afternoon, but I try not to make a regular habit of it. Usually I relax there with a magazine or book, but today I just wanted to keep up with my Live Journal friends page and soak at the same time. Clearly technology has a way to go before we can safely lay claim to being a paperless society.

A few years ago in a graduate seminar on reading culture we had a great discussion about books/notebooks versus digital books/laptops (although there's some slippage now since some laptops are called notebooks--clever, marketing teams). I loved and still love the idea of saving trees by doing more things electronically and eliminating the paper trail, and if people do actually find it not annoying to read a novel on a computer or phone screen, then by all means save those trees! But there are some places that I just either can't or really shouldn't use electronics for my reading.

Another great example is reading while exercising. I like to read novels and magazines on the stationary bike, and during my dissertation I would read articles and edit my criticism on the treadmill and elliptical trainer. But I don't think I will be reading from my phone there any time soon. I guess all my arguments for why not stem from a possible glare on the screen and small font problem to the difficult of changing the pages, although the latter problem also occurs with paper which I manage just fine. The beach is another place that although I can technically use a laptop there, I will be fighting the glare problem, and getting sand or water inside my technology will cost a lot more money than one accidentally waterlogged journal.

Reading in bed is fine either way, and I do both, but I've also then kicked the laptop off the bed and then panicked. I never panic when I kick a book in my sleep. And falling asleep with the computer in my arms lacks some of the romance of cradling a novel. But I'm not a total Luddite. I love the idea of having cell phone access and wireless on airplanes, and I just wish they'd figure out a way to waterproof our gadgets so we could bathe with them, too.

1 comment:

stu said...

This is why they invented specialist e-book readers.