My friend and I have a longstanding dispute, and I’ve unilaterally decided to bring you into it (you’re welcome). It began years ago, when that book Born to Run came out. I remember him telling me he had read it, before a couple hours of nonstop chatter about how great the book was, and how he was definitely going to start running barefoot. Spoiler alert: he didn’t. I asked him to borrow it, and he told me he couldn’t actually lend it out because he got it on Audible, so I was, like, “Oh, so you didn’t actually read it then,” or something like that. Naturally, he got super pissed off, called me an elitist asshole, and vigorously defended audiobooks as “just as good” as regular books on the grounds that reading is just a way of making words appear in your head, so why does it matter if the words go in through your ears as opposed to your eyes — to which I probably said something about how he should just stare at the eq meter on his stereo the next time he wants to hear the White Album, because a song is just vibrations at different frequencies and amplitudes. Anyways, you can probably see where this is going; but suffice to say, we have gone ’round and ’round on the matter plenty of times. It doesn’t help that there’s some non-conclusive science on both sides of the debate, so I’m tagging you in, Hipster, to settle this once and for all, or at least put some new munitions in the magazine for the next time this comes up. If we’re both kind of right, who is more right?
Much as I love answering questions otherwise fit for scientists, I’m not sure I want to deprive you two of the opportunity to (a) engage in vigorous, friendly debate; and (b) enjoy simultaneous, smug convictions of your own rightness. Where’s the joy in life if you don’t have that?
This one pulls me in two directions. On the one hand, I love tapping a button on my iPhone and having Audible deliver an Iggy Pop biography straight into my subconscious. Then again, if I had my way, the book industry as such wouldn’t just be limited to print media: I would have every volume hand-bound by local craftsmen and sold from brick-and-mortar stores with exposed brick walls and free espresso. Imagine monks making illuminated manuscripts, but, instead of syphilis and leprosy, the bookmakers only have to worry about driving traffic to their Etsy shops.
One thing’s for certain, good on both of you for enjoying a real book every now and again. Maybe you’re sitting down to read A Suitable Boy without skipping a single page. Or maybe you’d rather listen to Gilbert Gottfried read 50 Shades of Grey. Either way, reading a book every now and again gets you the stamp of Hipster Approved Conduct. If being able to learn anything about everything after watching a five-minute YouTube video is the McDonald’s cheeseburger of knowledge, then reading an entire book for self-betterment and/or entertainment is a hand-ground grass-fed patty grilled medium rare and nestled between the two halves of an artisan brioche bun with a sunny-side-up, free-range egg on top.