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Intern Jana discusses the rising popularity of e-readers.

The other day, I was standing on an escalator at a crowded metro station during evening rush hour, being lowered in to a throng of commuters. I could see about 100 people from above, and nearly every head was turned down, bowed toward the tiny glowing screens of smart-phones and e-readers. The image was like something out of a cold-war era dystopian novel or the movie Wall-E in which all of the Pillsbury Doughboy shaped people are constantly entertained by their own private screens. The future is upon us.

I have stubbornly resisted the siren call of the e-reader ever since I became aware of its existence. It just seems unnatural to me, as if the experience of enjoying a book had been stripped down to its barest elements, as joyless as the idea of eating meals in the pill form. Electronic books, mail, even documents just don’t feel “real” to me. However, I can’t deny the e-reader’s benefits. I commute using public transportation every day, and I have actually found myself choosing books based on how well they will fit in my purse. As an avid environmentalist, I can’t ignore the fact that less printing and shipping of traditional books will be good for the planet’s health. Also, my husband is getting less and less patient with the ever-expanding collection of books that is invading our home. And, e-books are cheaper.

I haven’t done any research about this, but maybe this growing trend is helping the literary media which has been so famously suffering lately. Maybe the prevalence of e-readers will result in more people reading and easier access to literature. Many works that are in the public domain, like Shakespeare’s plays, are available for free (or almost free) online now. Such a significant development in the literary world will go down in history along with the printing press.  Perhaps print media isn’t dying, it’s simply changing forms.

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