Feb 092011
 
Authors: Matt Miller

I recently had to make a big decision in my life.

It was more important than the decision between Pepsi or Coke (Coke), more important than deciding who was worse at the Superbowl halftime show, The Black Eyed Peas or The Who (at least The Who are a talented iconic band) and more important than if Justin Bieber or The Jonas Brothers is better (no comment).

I had to make the decision to stick with the past or move into the future: to buy an e-reader or to stick to my beloved print books.

E-readers were everywhere I went. I shopped at a bookstore and they were being shoved down my throat.

“Just hold one –– would you like a brochure?” The nerdy yet somehow still trendy Barnes and Noble employee would say to me, his poison tongue spewing blasphemy against everything I stood for –– against his entire career choice as a book salesman.

Biting back tears I would sprint to the back of the store and find comfort in the silky pages and ink that I hold dear.

E-readers were my antithesis, my enemy.

Yet somehow they still taunted me. I couldn’t look away from the hip Kindle commercials or their high-tech futuristic design. They were the Ferraris of reading material.

I imagined myself frolicking through a field reading F. Scott Fitzgerald free from the burden of pages and never again to be forced to go to a bookstore.

The thought haunted me. Here I am studying journalism, a dying art due to the decline of print readership, and I’m tempted to become part of the problem.

But then I looked at the news.

Last year e-book sales rose 400 percent and pulled in about $1 billion profits according to a Jan. 28 Los Angeles Times article, and the publishing business has never been more optimistic.

It makes sense that the publishing company essentially spends money making nothing and can sell the book at almost the normal cost. Could this mean more money for authors?

Could this mean more opportunity for authors to be published at a low cost?

This ability to produce material and offer it to anyone instantly was good for me too. Journalists have found an outlet through e-readers to publish longer pieces that would never have a chance to be printed.

“The Atavist” is a cross between a magazine and book publishing company that prints longer stories directly onto e-readers.

E-readers weren’t only helping out on the business side of things, but also getting a generation that once turned its back on books to read.

A New York Times article dated Feb. 4 pointed out that e-readers are huge in younger demographics. In January 25 percent of e-book sales were young adult books, which is up from 6 percent the previous year.

Publishers expect young-adult and children’s books to be very hot sellers as e-readers move to a younger audience.

The facts convinced me and soon enough I was staring down at my very own Kindle.

I loved its feel the look of the screen, the ease at which I could get a new book. And soon enough I was downloading and taking in books like they were crack.

I was addicted, but there were no side effects, no robbing an old woman for my next fix, no sleeping in bathroom stalls, just an endless world of literature at my fingertips that was with me all the time.

It wasn’t until I showed my Kindle to my Grandma (a devout reader) that I realized the true potential of e-readers. She was amazed at my ability to make the words on the screen bigger, which meant no more searching for large print books. She was amazed at how light it was; no more fumbling with heavy books in tired hands.

Instantly I was stunned at what e-readers had done. In a short time they had helped a younger generation realize the greatness of reading, and helped an older generation continue to enjoy an ancient pastime.

By buying my Kindle I wasn’t turning my back on books, I was helping them move into another stage of their long life. I was participating in a natural evolution where technology and art meet to hopefully make the next Cormac McCarthy book more important than the next episode of Jersey Shore.

Entertainment Editor Matt Miller is a junior journalism major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to verve@collegian.com.

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