Gadgets Versus Books

Josie Leavitt -- March 29th, 2013

I have been traveling this week. Blissfully, I’ve escaped the late spring chill of Vermont and headed to Key West, Florida. I packed two books with me, both galleys. One was the new David Sedaris and another isĀ Open Mic, an anthology of young adult stories edited by Mitali Perkins.

I’m almost done with the Sedaris book and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Laughing out loud is not something that happens often during long layovers in the Philadelphia airport, but laugh I did. As I was laughing I looked around. I was the only person reading an actual/physical book. This kind of amazed me. Where were the books? Surely, I was not the only person with a book? But I searched high and low and nary a book was to be seen.

Everywhere I looked people had their heads in their phones, their iPads and their computers, but no one had a book. Not even the littlest reader had a book. This little four-year-old had a learning device that he deftly used to keep himself amused while waiting to board his flight. Parents of toddlers had the kids huddled up close to look at the small screen while they read out loud. This was disturbing to me. Where were the books?

I know books are hard to pack and all, but really, what happened since the last time I traveled and people had books? I live in Vermont and folks eschew ereaders, so I’m clearly behind the times here. Everyone was reading on a wired device. Blissfully, though, I saw no Kindles, but rather Apple products and phones. So, at least I could maintain the illusion that people weren’t beholden to Amazon for their vacation reading. I happily, almost defiantly, read my book during take-off and landing just to irritate all the people who had power down their devices. I didn’t have to leave my book just because the plane was moving and was happy for this. But as a bookstore owner I was shocked at the dearth of books. The airport bookstores, if you can call them that, since they were sadly lacking books, had clearly switched to catering to the traveling e-readers.

I clung to my book during the flight and all during my trip. I sat on the beach and overheard people complain about how hard it was to read in the sun or lament that they had just run out of power. I gleefully turned real pages and read to my heart’s content. I know the times are changing, but I would rather tote around a heavier bag than read on a screen while at the beach.

And, if you drop a book in the pool, as I did, it gets soggy, but isn’t ruined. The same can’t be said for an e-reader.