Friday, August 20, 2010

"There has been a stigma attached to the bookworm"

One paragraph from this New York Times article particularly caught my attention this afternoon:

“I think, historically, there has been a stigma attached to the bookworm, and that actually came from the not-untrue notion that, if you were reading, you weren’t socializing with other people,” Dr. Levinson said. “But the e-reader changes that also because e-readers are intrinsically connected to bigger systems.” For many, e-readers are today’s must-have accessory, eroding old notions of what being bookish might have meant. “Buying literature has become cool again,” he said.  (Paul Levinson, professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University)
The focus of the article is on how e-book reading devices make people who dare read in public more accessible - like that's necessarily a good thing.

I read a good bit in public, generally when I'm catching lunch on the run somewhere or when I'm forced to cool my heels in some doctor or attorney's waiting room.  Rather than sit like a lump of inert clay (the way so many others seem to do) I take advantage of the time to read a few pages in whatever book I have handy.

So lets get something straight, Professor.  I don't want to be accessible; I want to read.  I don't want anyone feeling sorry for me because they think I'm some nerdy guy with so few real friends that I substitute books for people.  I feel a kinship with others whom I spot reading in public, often making eye contact and sharing a quick smile and a little nod with them.  Sometimes we even lift our books so that we can share the titles being read - but very seldom do we really talk because that's just not necessary.  Readers understand each other; if the general public does not get it, perhaps the "stigma" rests on their own shoulders and in their tiny little minds.


  1. I have to agree. I never have bought into the idea that reading is a social activity. It just feels like many device and ebook creators are adding this functionality because it's hot and simply because they can.

    I guess there might be some folks a couple of generations younger than me that "expect" this kind of functionality in a device these days. But to take that outside of the demographic and apply it to the act of reading itself, is a bit much.

  2. I wonder if these are "new" readers or just "old" readers in a new forum.
    "If" I had an ereader of some sort, I'd never give up my real books.
    My son-in-law thinks that eventually there won't be any real books and we will all have to read an e-reader. I am on the fence with that one. I sure hope not!

  3. Thanks for the advice, but I never said or even implied that readers want to be publicly accessible.

    What I said was that eBooks may be changing the public perception of readers - how human beings are viewed when we read in public - because the eBook allows for easy, instant socialization.

  4. It's exactly this "instant socialization" that I don't like to think others will suddenly see in a solitary reader just because he has a new gadget in his hand. I obviously could have expressed my point more clearly...sorry for the confusion.

    I still don't understand how reading can ever really be a social occasion nor, in my opinion, should it be. I can't see that as a good thing.

  5. Trav, after several years experience on an e-reader, I am more convinced than ever that it will never replace dead tree books. The experience is simply inferior despite all the bells and whistles being added in the new readers. Kids may very well feel differently because, by the time they have been reading for a few years, they might very well have more hours of reading on electronic devices than with real books.

  6. Kayo, I think you're son-in-law is wrong (sure hope so, anyway). Real books will be available, even if it's just in limited quantity special printings, or something of the like. Heck, even LPs are still being pressed these days, long after the vinyl album was officially killed off and buried.

  7. I, too, take a book with me anywhere that there might be at least a 5-minute wait, like the post office. I figure that all the other people in line are just envious that I'm so obviously not impatient to get to the front.

  8. Yes, good grief, who cares if reading is nerdy? The people who might say that are not people whose opinions I respect!

    Amen, my friend!

  9. Patti, I always figure they are envious that my blood pressure has to be lower than theirs because I'm not all that concerned about how quickly the line moves.

  10. Exactly, readerbuzz...I actually have my own stereotypes about people who can zone out in a waiting room for 45 minutes without doing anything other than sit in an uncomfortable chair...empty heads, etc.