For This Teenager, An iPad is Just a Bookend


This is the nightstand of a 15-year-old girl. My daughter. A lover of Tumblr, a voracious consumer of YouTube, a texting and Snapchatting and, yes, full-blooded Kindle reading teen of Generation What’s Next.

Yet her iPad Mini, a silicon beacon of human advancement, has been relegated to the scrap heap of history, trapped beneath the weight of young adult novels and classic literature.

She recently spent an entire precious weekend in Los Angeles, buying and lugging physical books so her favorite authors could sign them. Sure, she had a few of their books on her Kindle reader too, but how do you sign an app?

Reading is wonderful no matter how you do it. Ease and low cost and universal access are awesome. But books — real, heavy, cumbersome books — still matter.

Author John Green, who signed his novels for more than five hours at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival, says books thrive because they remain an amazing piece of technology. And who can argue with him or more than 500 years of marketplace validation.

There is a unique emotional connection that books make possible between reader and author. That sense of touch, that marking of the page with a name or personal message, that knowledge that a dead physical object can come alive when shared.

Because digital media is everywhere, because it’s as ubiquitous as oxygen, at a certain point it loses its impact. The half-life of a tweet is 25 minutes; a Snapchat message is gone in seconds.

But books never leave us. We can see and touch them, we can turn their pages and hug them tight. And we can pass them along, from author to reader, from generation to generation.

I love digital media and I love reading online, on my Kindle, anywhere and any way I can. But I also love that there are 15-year-old girls in the world who prefer to use an iPad as a bookend.


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