Print vs. digital, addendum

Two different people have brought up to me in the comments on my last post a point which I wished to call out and separately address. To wit, that part of the question of print vs. digital is a question of privilege.

It absolutely is, I agree. That I am able to own not one, not two, but three different devices capable of reading ebooks (my nook, my iPhone, and my computer, and yes, the computer counts) is absolutely a question of my privilege of having enough income to do so. This is me acknowledging that. Since I grew up in a family environment that had quite limited income, I daresay this went a long way towards books being the one big indulgence I generally allow myself. (I apparently lack the usual girly genes involving clothes, shoes, purses, makeup, etc. All my disposable income goes to books, electronic devices, and music.)

I very, very much respect and acknowledge the fact that even though prices on ereaders are dropping regularly, they are still very much luxury devices. Many will not be able to afford better than secondhand prices for books in general, which counts them out of buying most if not all ebooks, and never mind the expense of a device to actually read them on. This is one of the biggest reasons that people who like to read digitally really, really should never snark on people who prefer to read in print.

At the same time though let me point out that the question of privilege is not entirely one-sided here. There’s also the question of health and age privilege; consider for example the oft-quoted scenario of a nearsighted person who finds that reading on an ereading device, and therefore being able to adjust the font size to something comfortable for them, means they can suddenly read a lot more easily than they can a print book. I’ve seen countless people testify to this on various blogs and on Twitter, and a couple of people have talked about it directly to me.

This though was the point of my original post: i.e., that both print and digital readers have very good reasons for preferring to read in the formats they do, and to express the hope that each side will refrain from snarking about the other. As I said in the comments on that post, publishing is going through massive upheaval over not only the formats of books to be published in, but over its ongoing ability to make money in general. Nobody knows how things are going to shake out in ten, fifteen, or twenty years down on the line, although predictions abound. It’s very scary, all around!

One thing though I’m pretty sure we can all agree on: books will survive, in one form or another, and as long as that is the case, there will be people to read them.

P.S. Sorry about comments being disabled on the LJ and DW mirrored versions of that last post. I’d forgotten I turned those off for a previous poll post, and never turned ’em back on! You may now comment on the original WP post as well as its LJ and DW mirrors.

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