In re e-Books

Terry posts about e-Books, and he likes them. Among other things, he says "In addition, the e-book is a technology so powerful and far-reaching in its implications that I’m sure it will offer countless additional advantages I can’t even begin to foresee."

Working Smart had a similar post in December, and I expressed my reservations then:
I agree that there will come a time when digital books will have the right gizmo to read them on. It seems that text and reference books would be the natural place to start (imagine getting that entire backpack of heavy Calculus and AP History tomes into one neat tablet that you can annotate, print from and bookmark, just like a print version).

Where I don't think you'll see a dent in sales is with reading-for-pleasure. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.
When Terry writes, "As we drove home afterward, we chatted about how delightful it is to browse the shelves of a good bookstore. But is it delightful enough to survive the coming of the e-book? I doubt it. To be sure, I had a lovely time—but it was the first time I’d done any serious in-person book-browsing in nearly a year. I now buy virtually all of my books online." I want to scream. Buying books is not nearly the same as reading them. And you don't have to own to read. At least, that's what I keep telling myself I have a rather substantial print resources budget for: providing books to students/faculty/members of the community without them having to buy them.

He's conflating two issues: the availability of books (how one gets ones hands on them) and the readability of books (what one does with them after they're gotten). It's also following the iRevolution's motto of "immediate, and small, is best". Minimalism isn't always to be honored and celebrated. Right now, watching a tv show on your iPod is cool - it's hip - it says "I've got disposable income and time and watch me be really, really now". But when you're my parent's age? Try watching that 2" screen then.

What about loaning books? I do it all the time. Will I want to loan an e-book? Perhaps, but there's a good chance that the technology won't allow it.

Unlike Terry, I don't mind packing and unpacking my books - I mourn the ones in storage right now, and I enjoy looking at the ones on Mt. Bookpile (which, sadly, seems to be holding its own against my best attempts to scale it and wrestle it into managable size). But that's me. While the Teachout Museum is impressive, I wouldn't want to live with all that - it's just a difference in opinion, and taste. Which is fine and good and makes for horseraces and all that.

Come the e-book revolution, I'll be happy to buy the OED and all the editing and school library texts in that format. But not the next Ian Rankin or Garth Nix or A.S. Byatt or Alison Weir. And I suspect I'm not alone in that.

1 comment:

Aravis said...

You're not alone at all. I can't stand reading e-books. I want the real thing!