Thursday, January 8, 2015

More fuel in the e-book vs. real book battle

Article on the NPR website about the Harvard Medical School study.
We read with great interest (and glee, if truth be told) the recent reports of a study at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston that concluded that reading an iPad just before you go to bed most likely would be detrimental to your health. Seems all that flickering blueish light emitted by the e-readers wreaks havoc on your melatonin levels, and that, in turn messes up your sleep patterns.

Well, we didn't need a scientific study to tell us that. We were already pretty sure that flickering blue light can't be good for anybody. Look at TV, for instance (or don't). That's flickering blue light, isn't it? And everybody knows TV (most of it anyway) rots your brain. Still, we're glad Dr. Anne-Marie Chang, associate neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, and her team undertook the study. Confirms what we've suspected all along.

Admittedly, we're somewhat biased when it comes to the question of good old-fashioned books vs. e-readers. Oh, sure. We've used iPads and Kindles before. We even own an iPad. But our anecdotal evidence shows that it clearly is an inferior experience reading a book on a screen. Maybe it's a cliche argument but it's also true that the visceral pleasure one gets from holding, smelling, and feeling a real book is unmatched by an electronic device. We won't even mention that there's no need to plug in a book to recharge it because it has no batteries.

Dr. Anne-Marie Chang
In our modest fantasy, Dr. Anne-Marie Chang, associate neuroscientist, who studies people's sleep patterns for a living, owns a vast library of classical literature and each evening curls up with a great leather-bound tome filled with deathless prose. This fantasy is based on absolutely nothing. We don't know Dr. Anne-Marie Chang, though she looks like a nice person, and we certainly don't know anything about her reading habits. Still, in our fantasy, we're pretty sure she undertook this study to show people that reading books on an e-reader is bad and reading real books is good. Perhaps our fantasy is fueled by our own bias. We can live with that.

If we let our fantasies run to their wildest extreme, Dr. Anne-Marie Chang, associate neuroscientist, and her entire team would take a break from studying the sleeping habits of hapless e-reading people and come to the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair in March. If they did, we would thank them profusely (and probably even buy them a beer) for undertaking such a wonderful study. But that's our fantasy and it has nothing to do with reality.

We doubt that this blog post or the report on the results of the Dr. Chang's study will do much to convince our readers of the value of real books. Indeed, we're well aware that we're the railing minister in the pulpit and our readers are the steadfast choir. You're here. You're reading this. Heck, maybe you're even reading this on your iPad. (Wouldn't that be ironic?) We'd suggest that you turn off your e-reader, and pick up a good real book to read for a little while before you go to sleep. Sweet dreams. We'll see you at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. Well rested, we hope.

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