With all the hoopla around Amazon’s new Kindle 2, I keep seeing more blogs extolling the virtues of electronic text readers, so here are a few reasons why I don’t think electronic reading devices will replace bound, paper books any time soon:
1. Technology is always subject to fail. How many old, dead computers have you been through prior to the one you’re using now? Are you going to back up your reading device? Do you back up your computer?
2. What happens if it’s stolen? Are they going to be able to shut it off, and ship you a replacement?
3. What happens when you lose it? People lose cell phones and laptops, cameras, you name it, all the time. They’re going to lose their electronic readers if they take them out of the house. It’s not going to be like leaving your $8 paperback on the bus. You just lost your entire library.
4. And what about libraries? Until these devices become free and available to anyone, they are an elitist toy that the majority of people will not have. People still need access to information, via libraries. I don’t see libraries loaning out electronic readers in the near future. It’s the same reason there are still pay phones, despite the popularity of cell phones.
5. Art/coffee table books. The electronic readers will never be able to duplicate these, at least not in their present hand-held design. Maybe someday they will if they become some sort of holographic projection tool with astonishing graphics, but that’s a long way off.
6. It’s electronic and that means banner ads. Eventually someone will figure out a way to place ads on them, the way they put previews onto DVDs you buy, and you have to wade through them before you get to the feature you actually paid for.
7. It will get hacked. Just like you get spam text messages and ads on your cell phone, since they’re using the same networks the cell phone companies are using, it will get hacked, it’s just a matter of time. You don’t have that problem with a book.
I’m sure I’ll come up with other reasons and may amend this list as time goes on.
In my heart, though, my main objection to these things is they are the antithesis of what a book does for me. When I’m holding, reading, disappearing into a book, I am unplugged from the distractions that swirl all around us – tv, phone, computer, internet. It’s just me and my book. Quiet. Peaceful. Private. Am I elevating the book to a mystical status? Maybe, a little bit. Is there not something sacred about entering someone’s mind, vis-a-vis their writing?
‘Every novel is an equal collaboration between the writer and the reader and it is the only place in the world where two strangers can meet on terms of absolute intimacy.’