Revenge of This Nerd.

This past Sunday, NY Times readers were once again subjected to a loathsome Sunday Styles Section. There were many offenses this week; a horrifically written and poorly documented supermodel divorce expose, a snorey (story + so boring it puts you to sleep) about Yuppie parents “red shirting” their 4 year olds for success, and a fit-to-print gem, “Can NY Save Lindsay Lohan”?. The most egregious, however, was a newsworthy piece woefully titled: E-Books Make Readers Less Isolated!

Readers, throw out your dead tree books and pony up for an iPad, or be prepared to suffer a lifetime of spinsterhood and loneliness! The Sunday Styles warns that having our noses stuck in actual books is so alienating and grotesque, we are actually giving off vibes that we are self absorbed bitches and assholes who prefer books to people. The iPad, on the other hand, inspires so much awe, elicits so many oohs and ahs, that on top of all it’s other features and functionalities, it actually makes you more popular.

According to a “Communications Associate”:

“People approach me and ask to see it, to touch it, how much I like it. That rarely happens with dead-tree books”.

What about when the new fangled cache has worn off and that ipad is just a ham radio, a walkman or a boombox? Then what will you do for attention?? The article further purports that “bookworms” were once stigmatized, but can now be cool because with the iPads they have the internet. A non medical doctor waxes historic:

“I think, historically, there has been a stigma attached to the bookworm, and that actually came from the not-untrue notion that, if you were reading, you weren’t socializing with other people. But the e-reader changes that also because e-readers are intrinsically connected to bigger systems.”

Wait, there’s a “stigma” about reading alone? Since when? There is a stigma attached to being a “bookworm”? Since when? This is a ludicrous premise that is not substantiated by anything in life or in history. Have pre-iPad readers really been viewed by non readers as anti-social, Aspergian lunatics? No, so why do we need “eBooks” to change the public perception of readers? Unless you are in Kindergarten, reading is an endemically solitary activity, not a social one. Most people do not read to attract the attention of strangers, it’s usually quite the opposite. Anyway, iPad creators just threw in the reading function because the younger generation expects it, to fuck with Amazon, and because they could. But to apply it to the act of reading itself? Come on. If what the eBook does is create easy, instant socialization via strangers busting into your chapter, grabbing your ipad and saying “hey what’s this button do??” I’ll pass. An actual medical doctor scientifically deduces that the sleek, modernist stylings of the iPad helped dispel “social stigmas” about reading alone in public associated with clunky, dusty old books:

There may once have been a slight stigma about people reading alone, but I think that it no longer exists because of the advancement of our current technology. We are in a high-tech era and the sleekness and portability of the iPad erases any negative notions or stigmas associated with reading alone”.

Oh you poor, unhappy hipsters. You simply cannot have books junking up your modern lifestyle. You can’t have those lurid book jackets blemishing the uninterrupted expanse of concrete and teak or break with the monochromatic monotony of sensory derived, wireless white space. But how do you show that you went to Art Basel in 2008 without the accompanying coffee table book conspicuously displayed on your reissue Jens Rison coffee table? How do you show that you are smart without a shelf to display your import edition of Knowledge, Reason and Taste? How do you prove you’re not an actual idiot without turning your minimalist pad into a maximalist library? How do you exude bookishness without any visible books?? One underrated functionality of the iPad will be it’s ability to separate the modernist man from the modernist mouse.

Further proof that the iPad is less a high tech “reading machine” and more a stylish affectation of reading – like putting a comic book inside a copy of War and Peace – is the fact that iPads are hitting the runways as props in the hands of functioning illiterates (models). Yes, iPads are today’s must-have accessory, eroding old notions of what being “bookish” might have meant – short, ugly, four eyed, agoraphobic. Thanks to the iPad, reading books has become socially acceptable again. Having trouble finding enough uses for your iPad since you’re not actually reading with it? Or you just want to make sure that everyone you come into contact with knows that you’re cool enough to have one? Check out Gucci and Louis Vuitton’s expensive collection of ipad cases.

Then there is the guy that lives up to everything this article suggests. It’s you, parodic hipster with an iPad that I see every morning at the counter at La Mill – a $6.10 a cup, coffee “boutique” with a one-of-a-kind espresso machine and Poussin wallpaper – in Silver Lake. I see what you are up to. I see it every time you lean back in your chair and stretch affectedly and offer us full screen access to your life. You have Twitter and Facebook open, you’re on iChat with your pencil-cut girlfriend. Dot ME is up because you’re hoping for an email from the booker at The Echo. iTunes is blasting Pixies b-sides on your earbuds, a little too loudly. Linked-In is up because you’re supposed to be looking for a job. You have an organic Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, slow extraction latte wilting as you evince your treasure to the other unemployeds as if it were the Dead Sea Scrolls, theatrically turning the gadget  from it’s upright viewing mode to landscape, so that we understand it operates sideways and the screen shifts, revealing all its awe-inspiring features with sweeping motions, like you are conducting a symphony. Sitting next to your latte, your summer wool knit cap and your fixed gear bike lock is an iPhone, which never rings. You are the same guy who a year ago strategically positioned uncracked editions of “Last Night on the Earth Poems” and “Infinite Jest” where your ipad now sits. You didn’t read those books and you aren’t reading any books on that iPad either. For you, parodic hipster, there are hipster advertised ipad cases. It costs a lot of money to look that predictable.

I don’t want “instant socialization” when I’m reading. I want to read. That’s the point. All this startlingly puerile article ends up suggesting is that eBook readers – or specifically iPad users – are not really “readers” at all.

Excerpts from E Books Make Readers Less Isolated. Full article at the NY Times Fashion & Style, Sunday, August 22nd

I wrote about the iPad in a previous, less snarky post The Bookworm Turns for Comic Book Stores and Nerds

About kara

We know our letters just fine, and we know our numbers to a certain point, but books were always the realm of four-eyed poindexters with bowler hats and cravats. That’s why it pleases us so that America’s proud illiterates are finally stepping up and pushing back against the crushing tide of education that threatens to swallow us all into its gaping maw of checked facts. Champions of the Ignorantiat will not like it here.
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