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MIT student blogger Jenny X. '13


fear of technology

Hello all,

I interrupt the great back-to-school flow of these blogs to deliver a semi-personal, semi-existential rant.

I am THIS close to ordering an e-book reader (the brand of which I will not specify but you should have an idea.)

And then I dwell on the fact that you can soon checkout books from your public library via said e-book reader.

First I’m like – HEY! That’s great!

And then I remember, the public library IS MY NO.1 MOST FAVORITEST THING ABOUT THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. It’s an uniquely American institution. 

At a time when budget cuts across the nation are slashing public libraries’ staff, programs, hours-of-operation,

Do I really want to help undermine the value of the physical public library – an air-conditioned, wifi-ed, water-fountained, educated, cultured – safe haven?

All of these consequences are fast-forwarding through my head like a scary movie, rolling like a fireball towards Fahrenheit 451.

On the flipside, said e-book reader will be so convenient and I know I will love it. At this point, I am really scared of technology. It’s chasing away so many, so many things for convenience, efficiency, and power.

And that’s also one thing you can’t change about technology: it won’t ever stop. You can stand back, observe – but eventually fall behind and become obsolete like a floppy disk.

I can hold my reservations about said e-book reader and put off buying it, but it won’t stop the Kindle 3, 4, 5, Nook Color, Metallic, Convertible, or whatever from coming out.

It can only keep going, or we wouldn’t be where we are today.

IN CONCLUSION: I wish I had a conclusion to this rant.

And here I am, going back to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in less than 2 weeks.

What tradition-bending innovations will arise in the upcoming year??

brb, figuring out life.


  1. Perhaps if the e-readers can still function after being left in a 100+ degrees F car trunk for beach reading… I *might* switch over. But nothing compares to the physical sensation of turning pages.

  2. Qiaochu Yuan says:

    The library, as an institution for providing information, is dead. I would elaborate, but Seth Godin already did.

  3. anon says:

    The comparison to Fahrenheit 451, which many advocates of paper books have made, is not valid. The characters in that story gave up on reading in all forms. They had the technology for e-readers; they chose to use it to watch television instead.

  4. Olurotimi Bolonduro says:

    @ Anon
    Based off of my understanding from reading Fahrenheit 451, not all of the characters gave up reading (Faber would be one example). But we can both agree that that there was no (legal) use of regular books, hence Jenny’s point.

  5. Jenny Xie says:

    @ commenters

    thanks, i realize that this rant is simplified and generalizing, that e-readers alone do not directly lead to anything in fahrenheit 451 or the death of libraries…

    i’m generally all over the latest tech…the problem isn’t really that i think e-readers are bad, it’s that i think they are good…sensible…and all too tempting, and for a moment i’m just feeling scared and rebellious, why are we always succumbing to the latest technology.

    at the rate new gadgets come out nowadays, i feel pushed.

    i feel like any moment now, i could still order one right away…

    people say that even if you get an e-reader, nothing’s stopping you from walking into your bookstore, going to the library, and maintaining that hold on the real book.

    but we only have so much time/energy to devote to the “reading” part of our lives. nothing’s stopping us from going to the blockbuster store and getting a dvd but wait, blockbuster is defunct now. and most people don’t see much value in a Digital Video Disc or Video Home System anymore anyway. and i can’t help but feel that most people who “want to feel the turn of the pages on their fingers”, “smell the aging glue” will convert sooner or later. actually, it’s probably inevitable.

    while there’s conservation of matter/energy in everything , something always changes. and the change is always lost in the conversion.

    like i said, i might end up ordering one any moment, and proceed to feel hypocritical one second, and in the next, completely in-sync with the normal ebb and flow of civilization.

    i’m in such a nostalgia funk, excuse me, omg. x_x byebye

  6. Covi says:

    Really, Kindle 3 is the most profitable trade I’ve ever made. You should be green (too).

  7. Qiaochu Yuan says:

    Eh. Both from an individual and a societal standpoint, there are much more dangerous habits to worry about.

  8. paul says:

    yeah so much to look out for,may be a sea water generator to make electricity cheap,may be the government can stop this crazy budget cuts