Posts Tagged ‘e-readers’

Kindle or kindling

July 12, 2014

A column in The DominionPost (Plastic not as fantastic as real books 20 December 2013) by Rosemary McLeod argues against the e-reader and for the tactile experience of reading a physical book.
While she asserted she was not being a luddite, I couldn’t help comparing her to Socrates in Phaedrus: “if men learn this [writing] it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves but by means of external marks.” Then there was Johannes Trithemius who wrote in opposition to the invention of printing, yet had De Laude Scriptorium Manualium printed so it would reach a wider audience
Socrates, a master of irony, would have appreciated that the only way we know today of his distrust of writing is because Plato wrote down his argument. In the same vein, Rosemary McLeod asserts that e-readers are not the way to read the classics yet over ninety percent of the classics can only be read on an e-reader since they are out of print. These works, have been preserved on sites like Project Gutenberg so can be downloaded and read on e –readers. McLeod mentions Jane Austen specifically. While Pride and Prejudice is always in print and other novels are widely available in second hand book dealers and libraries, I doubt the apocryphal works such as Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon are available to most readers in book form.
Dale Spender in her book, Mothers of the novel, makes the point that Jane Austen was part of a greater tradition of women writers. There will be many who would like to follow up on her claims and perhaps appreciate where Jane Austen fitted in to her contemporary literary scene. These writers are also unavailable to modern readers, yet you can download Fanny Burney’s novels from Project Gutenberg and The Digital Library, – provided that you read them on an e-reader.
There may be many compelling reasons for not using an e-reader, but arguing they are unsuitable for reading the “classics” is not one of them.