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Writer's Block: Abandoning the weight of reading

By Caitlin Vandewater
On February 19, 2013

I've made a reputation for myself as being late to parties - both literally and figuratively. I come from a family that is last to arrive at a gathering and last to leave. Like many people, I'm resistant to change, so when the latest, greatest technological breakthrough hits the market, it's not in my hands until the next best thing has hit the market. Usually I'm OK with this. It takes a bit of time for the kinks to be worked out and for the initial hype to die down.

When Amazon premiered the Kindle in late 2007, I thought the introduction of the e-reader would be the downfall of books and the publishing industry. Like Napster changed the recording industry, the Kindle - and the Nook that followed close behind in 2009 - has changed the way we read, write and publish our work. When it first hit the market, I was devastated. As an avid reader and budding writer, the Kindle meant the industry I wanted to enter was standing on unsteady foundation, its future as uncertain as mine. I dislike uncertainty almost as much as I dislike change.

As a teenaged writer, I felt that men and women who bought e-readers didn't believe in the power and physical and mental weight of books. Books are one of the few things that have stood the test of time. Sure, the way they are physically written is different, but the end product has been the same for thousands of years. There is something special in having to bend and crease and destroy the perfect spine of a brand new paperback. And to my 16-year-old self, anybody who wanted to abandon the weightiness of a good book was out of their mind, especially if they considered themselves to be literary in any regard. 

Let's fast-forward to present day: I'm over my phase of texting in grammatically correct statements. I've been known to say "lol" every once in a while when I'm instant messaging a friend. I tweet, I Facebook, but more importantly, I broke my solemn vow to never, ever buy an e-reader or tablet, let alone thoroughly enjoy using one.

The fall 2012 semester was busy, both in and out of The Stylus office. I was juggling running my section of the paper, fighting my way through my final English class and writing parts of my senior thesis. I had a lot of weight on my shoulders -both figuratively and literally.

When it comes to reading and research, I've always rejected the motto "Less is more." Intellectually, this has never failed me. I'd rather have too many good ideas to mine through than too little. Physically, however, this rejection took its toll. By the last month of last semester, I was carrying around so many books, articles and newspapers that I had started to limp and strain my back. This made sitting down for long periods of time uncomfortable, if not painful.

This isn't meant to be a sob story. It was my own fault, and like many things, it was just me being stupid and embracing my inner hipster. I'm lucky I didn't royally screw up my back from carrying around all that unnecessary weight. I certainly learned my lesson, even though all the heavy lifting paid off with a big, fat 4.0 on my report card. My gift to myself for surviving and thriving in the bumpy semester was a Nook, which I've since loaded up with a dozen or so books and magazines. Somewhere my 16-year-old self is shaking her head in disappointment. She's kind of an idiot.

See, that version of myself was so preoccupied with preserving something she held so dear that she lost sight of the bigger picture. Buying a Nook didn't weaken my love for words; it probably strengthened it. Now I can carry hundreds of books with me all the time without breaking my back. I can't single-handedly save the English language by refusing to conform to new forms of reading and communicating. It's counterproductive. It doesn't matter that my digital bookshelf is growing faster than my physical bookshelf, as long as one of them is growing. 

Besides, it's so much easier to snuggle up with a Nook at the end of the day instead of fighting with a flashlight and awkward posture. If you haven't done so, I'd recommend you do it sometime. You'll never want to bring another hardcover to bed again.

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