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Let’s set the scene:
The date is 10/29/12, the time is 8:41 PM, the place is an apartment in the East Village in downtown Manhattan.
Outside, Hurricane Sandy has begun to do her worst—howling winds at 80 mph, slashing rain, trees and debris being tossed hither and yon.
Inside, the dog stretches out on the couch (of course), while I watch Inherit the Wind—Spencer Tracy (as Henry Drummond/Clarence Darrow) is just about to surprise Frederic March (as Matthew Harrison Brady/William Jennings Bryan) with the information that Drummond’s fancy suspenders were bought in Brady’s hometown in Nebraska…
Suddenly, there’s an explosion outside, loud enough to be heard over the hurricane, the power goes out, and we don’t get to see two great actors smile in triumph and harrumph in dismay. Frell!
You see, I live just five or six blocks away from the Con Edison transformer that (in unimagined circumstances) has been overwhelmed by the nearby East River, causing the explosion and helping send the lower half of Manhattan into darkness for almost a week… and taking cell phone connectivity away with it.
Of course, within a couple of days I would find out how incredibly fortunate I was to only lose electricity and cell service. The suffering and grief in the area has been massive, and continues as of this writing.
But now I had time to fill and battery strength to conserve in the iPhone, iPod, iPad and iMac (yes, I drank the iKoolAid).
“Hello, my name is Michael and I love to read.” Now you say, “Hello, Michael,” because I suspect we’re in the same support group. I revel in reading. I learned to love it as a child. I read all kinds of stuff. I read all the time. Like Oscar Madison in that episode of The Odd Couple, I must read before going to bed. I’ve been raising money for more than 20 years to aid those who want to learn how to read. But how to read in the dark without using up the iPad battery the first day?
I hit upon a strategy that worked beautifully, got me through the blackout, and also got me thinking about the biggest topic of discussion in our industry: print books versus ebooks.
My solution turned out to be very simple—during the day, when there was some natural light, I read a printed book; and at night I read an ebook on my iPad.
I needed both to get thru. And so do we. This is not an “either/or” situation that we’re in—and otherwise-smart people who try to present it that way put me off. But maybe that’s because I’m old and cranky.
Ebooks are our present and future. I’ve championed this for longer than I care to remember. And that future keeps evolving—as technology changes, as more people get comfortable with them, as more young people come along thinking that this is the obvious way to read some things.
But print is our past, present and future. The present has changed and continues to evolve, and the future, well…. Unlike The Doors’ lyric from "Roadhouse Blues," “the future’s uncertain and the end is always near,” I believe that the future is uncertain by definition, but the end is not near for print. Nor should it be.
They are different reading experiences, each offering their own values and pleasures. I say, why limit ourselves?
Oh, and keep reading.