Let me begin by saying I love books, whether electronic or paper. I'll read on my Kindle or a "regular" book. Frankly, I'll read on whatever's available. I just love reading and being transported to another world beyond my own. It's pleasurable to share the domain the writer has created. It's a realm to which I bring my own thoughts, feelings and fantasies, all of which no doubt, color my reading experience. It's the act of taking in the writer's creation that's so meaningful, not the medium by which it's delivered.
I've heard many people refuse to consider using an e-reader. There seems to be an impenetrable wall of resistance to even the notion of trying one. It's the usual mantra about loving the "feel" and "smell" of paper; or the pleasure derived from holding a real book in hand; or perhaps, it's the physical act of turning pages; or the heft of the book itself.
I too, love the sensory elements of reading a paper book, but that hasn't precluded me from using an e-reader. After all, one medium doesn't rule out the other.
Why do some people refuse -- absolutely reject -- the idea?
It's not that they're knuckle-draggers or technophobes because they often have smart phones, iPods, computers and Skype. And, I've noticed the repudiation of e-readers isn't limited to older people. I know plenty of people under forty, who despite being completely comfortable with the technology of our times, want absolutely nothing to do with reading devices.
So, what exactly causes them to spurn this one technology?
I've thought about it as a psychiatrist, writer and avid reader.
Maybe it's because reading is something cultivated over the course of a lifetime, often beginning in childhood. Many book-lovers were read to as children -- by a parent, babysitter or other adult. It was, for most of us, a very special thing.
"Read me a story" is something most of us can remember asking, if we think back to our earliest formative years. "Being read to" is an experience which becomes embedded in our psyches as a distinct and unique childhood pleasure. It's loaded with meaning, and is suffused with memories of nestling on Mommy's or Daddy's lap; the look of the book with its bright, colorful illustrations; or the feel of the paper while we helped turn the pages. The physical book itself became the symbol housing the powerful emotional satisfaction of having parental attention bestowed upon us, with all its attendant meanings.
The book encapsulated a deep sense of pleasure, safety, wonder, satisfaction, and above all, love. These early experiences linger with us, and can have enormous emotional resonance.
On a pre-conscious level, perhaps some of us refuse to even try an e-reader because our minds view it as a renunciation of one of life's earliest pleasures.
It's merely my theory, but when I reflect upon how readily other technologies are embraced, none of them carry the primal significance of a "book in the hand."