Digital not always the best choice in the end


This past week the bibliophile in me took a bit of a hit. Borders, one of the largest bookstore chains in the country, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy and announced it will be closing around 30 percent of its stores.

Having spent much of my youth inside stores like Borders, this was not pleasant news.

How did Borders hit such a low? Have people seriously stopped reading books?

Did the literary cash cows that are Harry Potter and Twilight finally run out of steam? Not really. People are still reading, but hard copy books are on the decline. Digital is all the rage.

E-books like the Amazon Kindle or Barnes and Noble’s Nook have helped these companies stay afloat as the book market crumbles, because those companies took advantage of the massively growing digital market.

It seems that these days everything is becoming digital and all these products and services are being consolidated into single packages, be it e-books, tablets or cell phones. In a way, it’s a dream come true: everything one could want in one device.

So what is the problem? If everything is coming together on digital platforms, isn’t that progress?

Integrating technology into everyday life is not just good, but it is essential for functioning in the 21st century, whether you’re a geek or not.

But there’s a difference between using technology to be more efficient and becoming dependent on technology.

Dependence can be more of a hassle than anything. Take e-books.

Yes, there is a major advantage to having one device that can hold all the textbooks needed for a semester, but what happens if the e-book goes missing or breaks? Suddenly things get very, very bad.

Have you ever lost your cell phone? It turns your life upside down.

You’re cut off from contacts, have no alarm clock and quite often, no Internet or calendar.

This is a time when the average age at which a kid gets his first cell phone is eight, according to The Telegraph.

Mobile technology can now do everything from updating Twitter accounts to flinging perturbed birds across the screen to starting cars without car keys. And today’s culture is entirely based around having the latest, greatest, all-in-one device.

Still, sometimes finding a piece of useful technology and sticking with it for a long time — as long as it continues to work and doesn’t break — can be much more stable and efficient, not to mention cheaper.

Getting an e-reader, that’s fine. Updating to a new one if certain content is only available on the more recent model? Also good.

But if you keep buying the new one just because, then that’s just hopping on a trend, which isn’t smart. It’s not geek, it’s simply falling into a state of dependency.

Now, does this mean Skynet, the top manufacturer of Terminators, is going to take advantage of our failure to control technology usage? Except for IBM’s Watson A.I., more than likely not.

But at the rate that tech has and continues to integrate itself into daily life, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and re-examine how society uses technology, and see if perhaps it might be wiser to actually flip through pages rather than hit the “next page” button.

Yes, e-readers and their technological cousins have their benefits.

For college students struggling to save money, digital textbooks are a cheap and efficient option.

Yet there are some benefits to going old school in certain parts of life.

Sometimes it’s easier to stay organized with a notepad and pen than with an online calendar.

At the very least, it might be smarter to hold onto that textbook or those car keys, just in case something happens to your app-loaded smart phone.

I love my laptop, but sometimes nothing beats strolling through a library for an exciting read, sitting down and cracking open an actual book. Page-turners are so much more fulfilling when you actually turn the page.

And that experience is only made better when it takes place inside a Borders.

Nicholas Slayton is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. His column, “Age of the Geek,” runs Fridays.

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