Check out more from Bill Whitehead here.
Check out more from Bill Whitehead here.
Don’t you just hate seeing a misleading meme that was clearly aimed at reinforcing an audience’s biases? Isn’t it just terrible how easily misinformation can be spread in this manner? Isn’t it funny how memes stop us thinking too hard about the content such that we don’t fact check them?
Well, I hope I’m not alone. Or we’re all doomed. Doomed, I say.
Now I could discuss any one of hundreds of memes that circulate daily in political discussions. But, as a heavy hitter who has addressed the issue of memes before, I’m going to be tackling serious misinformation.
That’s right, this meme on the benefits of books is serious misinformation.
Now, before people start thinking I’m being melodramatic in calling a non-political meme that is just a bit of fun about books, remember, books are a $124 billion industry. So when people are talking about the format wars with memes like the one above, it is serious… Well, as serious as any discussion of an entertainment and leisure industry can ever be. Particularly if we take the existentialist view of the world.
I could, of course, have used a different meme. One with anti-science messaging, or a misleading political message designed to further divide public discourse, or one about cats, everyone loves cats. But if I did that, people would take one look at the meme and have either agreed or disagreed, and would be uninterested in anything else discussed. And this is part of the problem. Memes, like a lot of modern discourse, are designed to get you nodding your head in agreement before you think too hard. They allow you to outsource your thinking and fill in your knowledge on a topic by appealing to you with relatable content.
This meme is styled in a friendly cartoon manner. It has a whimsical font. Whimsical! It could be flirting with your partner and you wouldn’t mind. It is also appealing directly to the people who like their books to be made of the flattened entrails of trees, with relatable jokes about how terrible e-books are. But don’t think. It doesn’t want you to think.
Let’s take these points one by one.
Books have glare. If you’ve ever sat out in the sun and read a book on white paper you’d have noticed how much squinting is involved. Either that or you had a patch of white scarred onto your retinas. Books also don’t fare well without a decent light source. Soft light causes just as much squinting.
Neither does a shovel. Lots of things don’t have batteries, including my computer that plugs straight into the wall. The idea that an e-reading device (Kindle, iPad, etc) requires a power source, unlike the “superior” book, isn’t a like-for-like comparison. A Kindle holds thousands of books and can access libraries and stores directly. A smartphone can tell you the time. Let’s see a paper book do that.
Nope. No self-respecting reader and book lover dog ears books. This is sacrilege. It would be like promoting the ability of books to retain coffee stains.
No pop-up ads:
None on my Kindle or iPad either. You’re reading wrong. Oh, and books have ads in them, usually for other books by the same publisher and/or author.
Clearly never borrowed a book from a library. I’ve borrowed some, even own one, that smells like it has been swimming in vomit at some stage. This is actually a reaction from the chemicals used in production. And e-reading devices smell just fine. As long as they don’t get left to swim in vomit at any stage.
The trick to memes is that they slip the misinformation past you while you aren’t concentrating. Whether it be a misattributed quote or some cherry-picked statistics, it is easy to deceive people when they are busy looking at a pretty picture.
In the case of the paper books (DTBs), the “benefits” are dubious as soon as you think about them for more than two seconds. And notice that they aren’t benefits, like improved empathy, or greater cognition, or better communication abilities (see the rest of the list). Instead, the list is all about bashing e-books.
When the format wars discussion starts, everyone rolls out their usual banal reasoning for their preferred format. Without fail someone will talk about the smell of dead tree books (DTB), or the feel of eviscerated tree flesh in their fingers, or refer to some dodgy research that denigrates e-books. For some reason, the reading world is filled with technophobic troglodytes intent on proving that their old-fashioned way of doing things is better. This meme is no different, and I’ve addressed this issue before.
Whether it be dodgy “science”, or misleading memes, we need to critically assess the information we receive and share. Otherwise, the errorists win.
One pointlessly heated discussion that seems to occur with painful regularity in reading circles is which book format is superior. Do you prefer audio, or digital, or paper, or papyrus, or clay tablets? Personally I can’t see anyone topping the long-term data retention of carving stuff into stone cave walls. Bit time-consuming for authors though.
When this discussion starts everyone rolls out their usual banal reasoning for their preferred format. Without fail someone will talk about the smell of dead tree books (DTB), or the feel of eviscerated tree flesh in their fingers, or refer to some dodgy research that denigrates e-books. For some reason the reading world is filled with technophobic troglodytes intent on proving that their old-fashioned way of doing things is better.
Currently I read books in three different formats: DTB, e-book, audiobook. I like reading all three formats and they have various advantages and disadvantages. I have many fond memories of dead trees. The time I used one to level a table with an uneven leg. The time I threw one at the TV on election night. The time I used a bag full of them to prop open a door with a hydraulic hinge. Good times. I’m sure I have some fond memories of e-books and audiobooks…
Let’s run through a few pros and cons of the three formats.
What is my key point out of all of this? If you like reading you will like reading regardless of the format. The medium isn’t the message.
The reality is that we have to stop with the snobbery of the format wars. Every format has benefits to enjoy. Every person I have met who has bravely tried e-books and audiobooks has commented that they were unsure until they made the leap. Then they fell in love with all the formats.
I love books in all their forms, you should too.
*Yeah, go ahead and try and argue that point. I dare you.
The big take home from this infographic is that readers are more interested in reading, not on the format it comes in. I also found it interesting that people read slower on an e-reader (which I’d guess is because the screen is smaller and requires more ‘page turns’ which breaks reading flow) yet those using e-readers read an average of 9 more books per year (24 vs 15).
In summary: reading is good, go and enjoy a good book.
I have so much admiration for Stephen King. There are few authors who have managed to be as enduring and successful as he has. The Running Man is a great example of his ability to write an enthralling novel outside of his normal genre.
I’m a very late addition to the Stephen King appreciation society. I blame the movie IT. Scared the crap out of me as a kid and made me fear reading King novels. I’m a big boy now so I’ve started to buy up a few of his books (ebooks and DTB)and will be diligently reading them.
Which one should I read next?
Raise your hand if you actually read more than one book a year. Ever wonder about every reader out there? Well, some good folks did a survey to find out about us readers.
That’s right, E-readers were the gift of gifts this holidays. Now the Pew Institute have crunched the numbers to look at who was buying them and how this has changed over time. Report here.
The researchers performed phone interviews with 2,986 people and asked them, “Are you cool enough to own the greatest gadget since Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone?” With an error rate of 2.2%, the results were as follows:
I have my E-reader, the new Kindle. I still love my pile of dead tree books, but I also love my Kindle.
|My Kindle and a DTB|