Read, damn it.


There is a battle raging.

Tradition versus technology, Generation A versus Generation Z, print versus digital.

Books versus Kindles.

As a lifelong lover of words, a literary acolyte, a socially-awkward disciple of the written word – and, of course, a bookstore employee in three different states – I must take a stance on behalf of the sacred text.

On behalf of the book, I say:

Who gives a flying fuck?

Old Media

As an aspiring novelist and blogger (ugh), I can’t imagine a less important matter to me than how my potential readers will absorb my words.

Would Fitzgerald or Kerouac’s words had less of an impact on me if I had read them from a tablet?  Don’t be stupid.

This battle of old versus new isn’t a battle over artistic merit or, even, aesthetic preference.  It’s all about commerce.

Bookstores, even the behemoths, are crumbling, succumbing to that all powerful boogeyman of the 21st Century, the Internet (duh duh duh!).  Oh dear!

Want the hard truth?

In 50 years, we’re gonna miss such stores as much as we miss blacksmiths.  Technology has spelled the death of countless careers and businesses.  Every generation bemoans the end of an era, but unless you really think we’d all be better off hand churning butter and printing our books Gutenberg style, it’s probably time to embrace the inevitable march of time.

Let’s get something straight:  I’m a book guy.  On the list of things I do first when I move to a city, acquiring a library card is top 5.  My messenger bag always has at least one book in it, and I sleep on a bed always peppered with a few hard copies. 

I do not own a Kindle.

But someday I will (or, its future equivalent).  I have discussed my aversion to physical property before, so it should be no surprise that I can see the benefits of reducing the amount of stuff I own by going digital.

However, I’m not there yet.  I still like to turn the page, I still love holding a crisp new book, or flipping through the worn pages of a used book found among the crowded shelves of a dusty bookstore.  That doesn’t mean I can’t adapt.

I can understand those who resist the technological shift for personal reasons.  They have a particular medium they are keen on and they don’t want to lose that option.  Fair enough.

Those who decry the digital format for ideological reasons, though, are morons.  As Bob Dylan said, the times, they are a-gonna leave your stubborn ass behind.

I don’t want to see print media die off (whether that be books, newspaper or magazines).  I trust that in my lifetime (roughly 14 years left), I’ll thankfully still be able to find a physical book when I want it.  Hell, I have an odd affection for newspaper boxes.  Such artifacts are a treasure, and I do not relish the thought of them disappearing.

But they will.  Eventually.

Read.

Those who are rending their garments over this changing of the guard are missing the point.  Sure, the form does matter in an Art History sense, but as concerns the transmission of ideas and stories, the written word will lose nothing by switching mediums.

All that matters is that people read.  If knowledge is received, why should anyone care how it was transmitted?

(I get that the internet, in its ‘anyone can be an expert’ format, has its drawbacks, but that just means we should find a way to refine the information, not crucify the messenger.)

As a writer, I don’t care how people read, as long as they read.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again and again and again (and again): If you are not a reader, you are unfuckable.

Man, woman, marsupial, I don’t care:  Reading is a prerequisite for propagation.   I fully support a “Sterilize the Illiterate” movement.

Once the words, “I’m not really a reader,” have been uttered, there is nothing more to be said.  Smile, nod, walk away.  This is why I urge anyone fighting the Book Vs. Kindle battle to cease fire.  You’re fighting for a ceremonial cause.  It’s time to wage a different battle: Readers versus Non-Readers.  Make that your war.  And your weapon?

Don’t fuck Non-Readers. 

Skanks, hoes and bitches?  Totally fair game.  Chicks who don’t read?  Pass!

Douchebags, jocks and tiny penises?  Ride ’em cowgirl!  Guys who don’t read?  Screw ’em.  (Not literally!)

If you have any self-respect, you won’t intermingle your finer things with stupid loins.

Readers Versus Non-Readers

Why wouldn’t you read?  Reading inspires you, it enriches you, it enlightens you.  You don’t have to be a kid to get that sort of reward out of reading; though, maybe it helps.  If there is one thing I’ve taken out of my years working in bookstores, it’s that kids love to read.  Place a book in their hands and they will be enraptured.

Don’t blame television and video games if your kid doesn’t read.  Blame yourself for feeding them bright and shiny distractions.

Personally, I like television (got little interest in video games), and I think it’s a wonderful medium for artistic expression.  You don’t have to throw out your television to be a reader.  I watched tons of television as a kid, but I still read.  I watch a considerable amount of TV shows now (mostly online), and I still find time to read.  Just like the physical books versus Kindle battle, the Books versus Television kerfuffle is an unnecessary fight.  Both mediums can co-exist peacefully and even augment each other.

It’s up to you to find the balance.

Damn It

I can always spot a non-reader when they try to add to a conversation of depth.  They spout some well-trod philosophical argument or political point and act like what they’ve said was original or game-changing, when in fact it’s about as deep as a midget’s condom.

If you consider yourself a writer but you don’t read regularly, you aren’t a writer.  Online articles and blogs are nice appetizers, but unless you’re engaging with long-form works of scholarship or literature, you have no business inserting your words into the culture.

In fact, if you’re not a reader, I don’t care about a single thought in your head.

That’s my line in the sand.

We’re at war, pick a side!

If you’re not a reader, you could be nice to look at, but you will never be more than a pretty booblehead.

If you are a reader, congratulations, you hold the keys to the kingdom.


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7 thoughts on “Read, damn it.

    • Hah, don’t feel guilty. I’ve never even been in a book club (I’m not much of a joiner).
      Just find the time to read on your own. It should be part of everyone’s daily routine like exercising and taking a shower.

  1. Holy heck Batman, Joseph doesn’t hate the e-reader?
    I agree about the non reader being unfuckable, but I got stuck on that minor point.
    Wow.

    • I’m a big fan of technology. Besides for it being an unavoidable force of evolution, I also think it makes our lives better (when it doesn’t make them worse).

      I am not a believer that my personal choice of medium must dictate how others consume literature. I’d personally be sad if there were no more bookstores to waste a lazy afternoon in, but since I’ll be dead before that happens, I say, let the future generations find their own romantic hideaways.

  2. I still like books too. There is something deeply organic about pages with ink and the stains we can leave on white pages. I generally buy used books. When I do I always wonder as I flip the pages the first time who the person was who had it before me and how they might have reacted to the ideas and philosophy of the book. I have never read from a kindle or like product. But I think I will leave that to the next generation. I want my pile of books to remind me where I have been, and what I studied. Oddly enough I find those stacks comforting, as a sign that the ideas in the books are still with me. If its all electronic on a kindle I can’t mark the pages, and I can’t really leave a trail or path. I sometimes leave notes in library books, wondering if someone else will ever come across them and benefit from my feeble attempts to explain what the author is saying.
    I expect in a few years all college students will all get kindles or something like when they enroll in college classes. All the text books will be purchased to go on the reader and the paperless pattern will widen from there. But as for me and my house, I’ll stick to the old ways. If things go this way the paper versions will become more and more cheap. And I like that.

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