Technology

I Cannot Live Without Books

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Writing from the annual publishing industry brouhaha BookExpo America, which is being held this year in Los Angeles, New York Times reporter Edward Wyatt chronicles the fear and resentment sparked by electronic reading gadgets such as Amazon's Kindle. Have e-book buyers forsaken the physical originals? "We don't see people buying both versions," one publishing executive told Wyatt. "I think there is almost a one-to-one cannibalization."

For a more optimistic, or at least more idiosyncratic case for the printed word, the great urban historian Luc Sante offers this gem at the end of a long, discursive Wall Street Journal essay on the endless book collecting that has shaped and dominated his life:

I would very much miss books as material objects were they to disappear. The tactility of books assists my memory, for one thing. I can't remember the quote I'm searching for, or maybe even the title of the work that contains it, but I can remember that the book is green, that the margins are unusually wide, and that the quote lies two-thirds of the way down a right-hand page. If books all appear as nearly identical digital readouts, my memory will be impoverished.

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  1. I’ve got my own system. Books, young man, books. Thousands of them. If time wasn’t so important, I’d show you something — my library. Thousands of books.

  2. I don’t think books are in any danger.

    Turning a wall full of CD’s into data on my hard drive was great, because CD’s are a pain in the ass.

    Books are different.

  3. The video screen is a poor substitute for books. I’ve tried to read novels on the ‘puter. Fuck that, get me a hard copy. Books will not die. The digital revolution may kill magazines, but books are safe.

  4. Books are dead.

  5. I transitioned out of a book-related career a few years ago, and moved house about a year ago. For many practical reasons, I sold or donated almost all of my dead tree collection, keeping only a few choice editions with more sentimental than market value, and which I don’t expect to be able to borrow or download anytime soon.

    The process of divesting myself of all that ink on paper was a curious mixture of trauma and liberation. My books and magazines, along with my much smaller collection of LPs, 45s, CDs and cassettes, by far took up the most space in my small apartment. Without the books, the place was almost cozy, but with them it was claustrophobic. I don’t think I could ever have been classed as a bibliomane, but the dark side beckons one.

    As for the Kindle, a bunch of booksellers got burned in the early 90s trying to sell the Sony Data Discman, a technology that failed to take off for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the limited content available.

    Kevin

  6. The video screen is a poor substitute for books

    I agree, although I’ve seen handheld devices with screens that weren’t hateful like computer monitors.

  7. I sometimes read books in the shower. Try that with a Kindle.

  8. I have thousands of books myself and will likely stick with them, but I would like to have a Sony Reader or Kindle donated to me for experimental purposes. I’m willing to be won over, provided that I can crankily stick with paper for most of the time.

    If the electronic readers do take off, look for a massive market in peer-to-peer pirating of books. There’s some of that already, of course, but the popular aversion to reading large tracts on computer screens has prevented it from really taking off.

  9. I’ve gotta go with Luc Sante on this one. That’s how I remember stuff sometimes, too. Especially with cookbooks.

    Plus, I’ve never had to reboot or plug a book into the wall because the battery was low.

  10. “If books all appear as nearly identical digital readouts, my memory will be impoverished.”

    ctrl+f

  11. Speaking of books, if anyone wants a copy of the current Laissez Faire Book catalogue they can email laissezfairebooks@gmail.com. It will be sent as a pdf file unless requested otherwise.

  12. If you grew up reading books, no text display tablet will ever take their place. But children being born today will never learn the relationship with ink and paper you have. Instead they will develop a whole new relationship with text, the nuances of which you (and I) will not appreciate.

    Books are nearly obsolete. The world will never be the same, but what is gained outweighs what is lost.

  13. I’ve gotta go with Luc Sante on this one. That’s how I remember stuff sometimes, too.

    Jeebus, there’s three of us?

    Seriously, I can put a book down, pick it up three days later, and my eye will go right to the spot on the page where I stopped reading. I worry about me sometimes.

  14. “The video screen is a poor substitute for books”

    “If you grew up reading books, no text display tablet will ever take their place.”

    Ah… the sentimentality …

    First off – he Kindle is not a “video screen” and secondly I’ve grown up with books – a text display tablet can definitely replace them. Books take up space. Books are expensive to ship. Books are lousy when you need to find something quickly.

    I’ve owned a Kindle for several weeks now and I enjoy it immensely. Its highly readable, battery lasts longer than any other device I own, its lighter than most books, and I can buy a book from Amazon within seconds.

    There are some draw backs – graphics is lacking, Amazon is sorely lacking a design engineer and the DRM is an issue.

    Books are dead.

  15. Call me when the usability and resolution are good enough to avoid annoying me to death. Oh, and I want access to something more than public domain versions of the classics and best sellers. Another big problem is that I can buy a used book at VERY low cost, but that’s not the case with an electronic book (except for public domain works). Until there’s a strong pirate market down the road, anyway, which raises new issues.

    These refinements will all happen, of course, only not soon.

  16. I’ve really been looking at a Kindle or an iLiad recently. Expensive, but being able to hit up torrents of DRM-free of technical books in an iLiad would be exceptionally useful. The Kindle is cool because of the integrated Sprint wireless access and it sounds like Amazon is trying to bring a solid customer experience.

  17. Books are presents in a way a download will never be. They smell good when new. There is nothing like opening up a new book and being the first to read it. And they don’t need batteries.

  18. Besides, if a girl comes to your apartment and sees an empty bookshelf where the brainy tomes, meant to impress unsuspecting prey, used to be, you’ll have to tell her, “Check out my Kindle Baby.” in a most unconvincingly come hither voice.

  19. I’ve gotta go with Luc Sante on this one.

    That’s how I remember stuff sometimes, too.

    Jeebus, there’s three of us?

    Four.

  20. I’m still trying to understand how kevrob or anyone else could feel claustrophobic in a room full of books.

  21. I have a cunning plan. It’s too cunning to wait for a Blackadderian response, so I will state it now: Develop a Kindle/Sony Reader/Blackberry equivalent for porn. Not for anything else, just porn. Stills and movies. And whatever else porn fans require. I’ll await my billions of dollars for coming up with this idea. I’ll even coin the name: The Fondle. Or, if Sony does it, the Sony Bater.

    It’s going to be so cool to fund my own space program.

  22. Books sequester carbon! Avoid the Kindle, buy books! And when you’re done reading it, bury it sex feet deep to keep the carbon away from the atmosphere!

  23. Jeebus, there’s three of us?

    Make that 4 of us.

    Also, I have seen and used the Sony Reader, and I have seen the Kindle. Both seem nice enough.
    The Sony Reader was much easier to read than a computer screen. The Kindle doesn’t have a backlight – so what does one do in low light settings?

    The Sony reader has some proprietary software used to buy/add content to/for the thing — which really turned me off.

    My friend who owned it was having a problem with the software getting a book on because of firewall issues with some port it was using or something. Seemed like a real pain. But he swears by it. He loves reading on it.

    Me, I prefer real books. I mean, I would probably buy a reader/kindle/clone once the price comes down a bit, but I dunno if I would ever completely forgo real books. It would be nice to streamline my bookshelves and have digital backups of books I have read but probably wouldn’t read again any time soon.

  24. Books sequester carbon! Avoid the Kindle, buy books! And when you’re done reading it, bury it sex feet deep to keep the carbon away from the atmosphere!

    due to previous commentary, I declare this statement subject to RC’s Law.

  25. I will get one if I can put all my TEXTBOOKS on it!

    (but how do I get the highlighter off my screen?)

  26. Also, if trifold, vinyl records disappear, music will be destroyed by people being able to buy music a la carte, out of context, and there will be no more market for real “albums”….and the increased use of portable music players will make the experience of ‘listening’ a solipsistic retreat from the formerly communal experience…

    uh..wait

  27. Can I stick my Kindle under the short leg of the table?
    Can I have a rally and burn Kidles to rouse the rabble? I don’t think a mass delete suffices.
    Can I drop a kindle over the side of a canoe, fish it out and commence reading it the next day?
    Can I drop my kindle off the roof of my building, go down three floors and pick up where I left off?
    Where do I put my margin notes and scribbles on a Kindle?
    How do I highlight passages in a Kindle?
    When I lend books to others, do they have to have a Kindle? A compatible one?

    I’ll be around for a few more decades to watch the digital book fanboys eat their words.

  28. I can’t explain why but I seem to read differently from a screen and from a book.

    When I read from a book I hear each of the voices differently. Inflection, character, and tone come through strong. When I read from a screen all of the voices sound exactly alike. No inflection and no variation.

    I can’t explain this. I just know it works this way for me.

  29. snark aside –

    This is my new favorite feature on my blackberry

    http://www.wattpad.com/download

    They partnered with Gutenberg/ibiblio recently, so now you can access shit like the complete works of RW Emerson, montaigne, marcus aurelius, etc. There’s also assorted stuff that would seem otherwise to not be public domain = like, Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler, et al

    Awesome little piece of software. I downloaded a dozen things to read offline as well, for the subway and stuff.

  30. Gilmore,

    The comparison to various music media is not apt. Previous music media – records, tapes, CD’s – all still required a device to play the music. So MP3’s are just a superior device than the device most recently in use.

    Books aren’t a device. Books are directly accessible.

    If I was doing research for writing, I would want to have all my books in searchable text. [Not that .PDF shit.] But to just read, the non-device book is still superior and probably always will be.

  31. Electronic paper technology continues to improve. It won’t be long before something very much like a (paperback, i.e. “floppy”) book will be available as a display device: Cheap, durable, and consuming very low power (perhaps so low that they will be able to operate and “chrage up” via solar or lamp power, much as “batteryless,” dirt-cheap solar calculators do now). In the meantime, methods will be developed to annotate and “dog-ear” display pages or multimedia presentations. This shouldn’t take any longer to work out than a generation, by which time eBook display devices will have worked their way up the utility curve and down the price curves to the point of practicality and affordability that automobiles enjoyed in the 40s and 50s. My only regret in all this is that the “sweet spot” will come too long to benefit my own college-age son, who has carried a huge backpack of heavy, expensive textbooks since elementary school. When the Personal Computer revolution began, back in the late 1970s, I had hopes that everyone would be using digital textbooks on pad-type readers by now. We’re almost there, but not quite soon enough.

  32. Turning a wall full of CD’s into data on my hard drive was great, because CD’s are a pain in the ass.

    Books are different.

    Books make better coasters.

  33. “to the point of practicality and affordability that automobiles enjoyed in the 40s and 50s”

    I meant that relatively, of course, in the sense that families of modest means could afford multiples and “everyone” had to have one, not that they would cost thousands of dollars each: in other words, the marketing “sweet spot” of truly explosive demand. I could also have spoken of color TVs in the 1970s, portable radio receivers in the 1950s and 60s, or even paperback books themsevles.

  34. Just to expand on something various people previously wrote, the screen on a Kindle or a Sony or an Iliad is a different technology that’s not like the LCD or CRT screens that you’re likely reading this comment on. It doesn’t emit light, it changes from white to black. The visual experience is considerably more like reading ink on paper than reading on a glowing computer screen. It’s also apparently easier to read in situations which would cause glare and washout on computer screens.

    Ebooks have their advantages and disadvantages as compared to books, of course, and always will. I don’t have an ebook reader, but what I’d want one for would be travel. Being able to take a dozen novels on a longer trip, without causing crushing luggage problems, would be truly awesome. Being able to buy another book from an online bookseller with a real selection, and not from an airline “bookstore” or the foreign-language section of some random place in a random country would also be pretty keen.

    It would also be nice to be able to buy a book for maybe half the normal price and take a chance on it that you wouldn’t take with a real physical book that you had to pay $10 for and tote around and leave on your shelf.

    I suspect that the next ten years or so will see an increasing market for ebooks while retaining a viable market (though perhaps a diminished one) for physical books.

  35. On the Media just re-aired a show about the future of books. I would not bet against electronic books.

  36. Thanks to emule I have discovered numerous Zoology textbooks, as well as others that are perfectly formatted, easily searched, and the notations that can be referenced on the fly, obviously do not compare to physical copies.

    I welcome any attempt at a paperless society. Certainly, I think if books ever become obsolete, then it will be some time before that happens. You’ll always have a at least a small group of people who are pissed that they can’t hold a book.

    However, I find it frustrating that there aren’t a wider selection of books in digital form. Publishers make more money with physical copies.

    Rethink that publishing career. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

  37. Fluffy | June 2, 2008, 7:24pm | #
    Fluffy | June 2, 2008, 7:24pm | #

    Gilmore,

    The comparison to various music media is not apt. Previous music media – records, tapes, CD’s – all still required a device to play the music. So MP3’s are just a superior device than the device most recently in use.

    Books aren’t a device. Books are directly accessible.

    Yawn.

    Device you say? Is that like…. uh… a *tool*? Like, a knob? or, a pedant? 🙂

    Id suggest you directly access marshall mcluhan in your preferred medium. No one made any either/or case here dude. If you prefer carrying the Golden Bough around in your purse, more power to you.

  38. I don’t think books are in any danger.

    Turning a wall full of CD’s into data on my hard drive was great, because CD’s are a pain in the ass.

    Books are different.

    Some of my points will have already been stated better above…

    If there were a technological alternative to the book that was as convenient as the ipod is for music, you would replace most of your books with downloads. However, just as the MP3 has resulted in the resurgence of vinyl for music, the book is in no danger of extinction from digital alternatives. It will just become the format for treasured texts, while the digital form serves the function of day to day media consumption.

    For archiving, ownership, vanity, showing off to the ladies (or lads), the book, like a vinyl record (but not a cd)is superior. But a device that held all the books on my to-read list that freed-up space in my tiny abode would be very cool.

    I would keep around my volume of Michel de Montaign with Dali illustrations, and my old Richard Brautigan, my PKD paperbacks, my first edition Milorad Pavic, or whatnot, but lots of the books I have just take up space waiting for that moment when I want to re-read or look something up.

  39. Books are like old friends whose faces (or spines) spark connections in my feeble memory. I cannot imagine the mere sight of a title on a screen rekindling thoughts of where I was when I read that story, or thoughts of the people with whom I shared discussions of the material contained. Even the stain on the cover of one favorite book, caused by the oils on my hands, brings to mind faces of former students who listened as I read to them about the adventures of a young teacher in 1920’s Alaska. No, they can have my books when they pry them from my cold, dead hands.

  40. they can have my books when they pry them from my cold, dead hands.

    You forgot “oily”.

  41. I’m not sure why folks are concerned about highlighting, making notes, and remembering passages. I’m not familiar (yet) with the Kindle or Iliad, do they not have basic search, highlighting, and markup features like PDF’s? Seems like remembering where a particular passage is would be irrelevant if you could type in a couple of keywords.

  42. Where do I put my margin notes and scribbles on a Kindle?
    How do I highlight passages in a Kindle?

    You can use the highlight feature and then access the passage in your clippings folder, and you can add notes by using the keyboard. You can also look words up without having to get up and find a dictionary.

    I own a Kindle, and I have to say that I don’t regret the purchase. The e-ink screen is great, and doesn’t bother my eyes like a computer screen does. Being to able to find a book, usually buying it for half the price or less and then download it an instant (well a minute), is also pretty damn sweet. Also, I’ve only purchased one Sunday version of the NY times, but not having to futz around with a newspaper while eating and not having to turn to page A22 to finish the article are both convenient features. I’ve only gotten one magazine subscription, Reader’s Digest, but I’m waiting for The Economist and Reason, hint hint guys, to offer their own Kindle versions.

    The downsides are yes it does freeze up, no you can’t drop it from a canoe into the water (but really, paper isn’t that good to get wet either), the browser isn’t all that good (but it isn’t supposed to be Iphone-esque in that regard), and the content is still lagging. Also , I hope they’ll enlarge the screen on Kindle 2.0

    Kindle isn’t going to be a dead tree book killer, but I think it is going to be a growing niche in the publishing and newspaper/periodical market.

  43. Just checked it out, aside from the 1980’s beige box look, that thing is pretty sweet. Now if someone can just get Steve Jobs and Co. to design the enclosure, I’d be sold.

  44. “Books aren’t a device. Books are directly accessible.”

    Books are a device. They are technology. Just ask Gutenberg. Scrolls were “books” but very different from their modern grandchildren. Books are a way of storing information. Previous to books stories were often passed on orally causing the telephone game problem (or Chinese Whisper for British readers.) Books were more efficient in many ways and less apt to change (though not completely immune.)

    As for my own view I think that there will always be a market for paper books. I have a Sony Reader which I love for some things – I download old rare books from Google reader and convert the PDF to LRF so I can read it on the reader. It is great for that sort of thing. But this is no substitute for the bendability and markability of a real paper book.

  45. .. I’m surprised that no one has posted this quote yet:

    “Print is dead” — Dr. Egon Spengler

    .. I was pleased to discover Plucker and the Gutenberg Project where I could download books onto my PDA .. great for waiting rooms, bank lines and the like .. however, I’m not ready to give up the printed word just yet .. the pleasure of having a couple of kids (or grandkids) in your lap while you’re reading cannot be easily dismissed ..

    .. bottom line: while I carried my PDA for my recent airplane trip, I had a paperback in my pocket in case the batteries died ..

    .. Hobbit

  46. If there were a technological alternative to the book that was as convenient as the ipod is for music, you would replace most of your books with downloads.

    No, I wouldn’t.

    This is why I talked about music being played on a “device”. An MP3 player is essentially [to me, anyway] just a gigantic record player that holds all my records and can find a particular song on one of those records without me having to try to find the right record and place the needle in the right place. The format has never been important to me because the “recipe” for audio has always been “electricity plus speakers plus volume control plus something that plays music”.

    Before e-books, why did people actually own books, instead of just getting them from the library when they wanted to read them? 99.999999% of the time you will own a book, you won’t use it. So why buy it? Why did anyone ever buy it?

    They buy it to have the physical object in their house. Because a house full of books is not the same experience as a kindle full of ebooks. There are already thousands of books online that I could read on my computer screen or my laptop without buying yet another piece of equipment. But I’m not reading those books. I’m talking to you yobs. I’ll read a book when one of the books in my house decides it wants to be read. E-books can’t decide that.

  47. All that is fine, but being able to have a searchable, annotated and indexed philosophy library in my book bag under a couple pounds is a day I look forward to.

  48. Someone upthread hit it I think. (i’m too lazy to verify whom) I can see a good market for this in schools from grade school through grad school. Also for people that do a lot of research in one subject, say, the bible. You could have several translations, a concordance, interlinear with greek and hebrew, and various commentaries by Spurgeon, Finney, the Wesley brothers etc. without having 100 pounds of books on your desk. I can have all that easy enough on my p.c. but it isn’t very portable.
    The big question for me is whether this would reduce the price of college textbooks (evil capitalist bastages.)

  49. Ebooks get dissed ‘cuz of past hype. They’re winning out group by group.

    In the early days, it was Science Fiction fans (who typically don’t pay for content), older folks needing large print that ebooks provide quite nicely, and the text-to-speech market.

    Later, and this was the big shocker, women who read romance started going big-time for ebooks, essentially ‘cuz Harlequin wasn’t delivering. (The lady enjoys vampires, bondage, and violent sex).

    If I had to guess at the demographics of Kindle owners, I’d say 35-50, considerably higher incomes than average, well-educated (dream market of book buyers.) Kindle’s setting all kinds of ebook sales records on a daily basis.

    Ve vill get you in the end.

    /For the curious, porn’s always sold and companies like Adobe are doing whatever they can to try and dominate that inevitable future education market before it happens.

  50. If you want to have some fun with these guys, just show them lulu.com and watch their heads explode.

  51. Fluffy,

    Before e-books, why did people actually own books, instead of just getting them from the library when they wanted to read them? 99.999999% of the time you will own a book, you won’t use it. So why buy it? Why did anyone ever buy it?

    I recognize the archivist instinct (even mentioned it in my post)…

    But consider: Some books you get from the library, read once and forget about them. Some you buy, then trade in at the used book store. Some you love and keep on your shelf. E-books would only have a shot at replacing the first two types above. The books you want as objects d’arte would not get downloaded.

    It doesn’t seem an either or proposition to me.

  52. Before e-books, why did people actually own books, instead of just getting them from the library when they wanted to read them?

    Why do you buy meat and put it in your freezer, instead of just going to the store whenever you want to eat meat?

  53. I can’t remember the quote I’m searching for, or maybe even the title of the work that contains it, but I can remember that the book is green, that the margins are unusually wide, and that the quote lies two-thirds of the way down a right-hand page. If books all appear as nearly identical digital readouts, my memory will be impoverished.

    Unless you have a very small number of books to look through, good luck with that kind of search! And in order to find it that way, assuming you have the hours of free time to waste on it, you still have to remember something about the quote to pick it out from the other few hundred lines that meet that same description. If you know enough to find it the Sante way, you know enough to find it with Control-F…and the latter takes a lot less time.

  54. The economics of eBooks are too good for them not to succeed. Being able to produce unlimited copies with essentially no material cost is a good thing.

    I wonder if medieval monks, cloistered in their libraries, lamented the coming of movable type. Perhaps they argued that people would not want to read books with plain type instead of the artistic manuscripts they produced.

    Of course, one of the great ironies is that these and other rare texts will now become increasingly available to both amateur and professional scholars through digital libraries – and potentially, eBooks.

  55. BakedPenguin: Yes, there was a considerable amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth when movable-type printing was introduced, snobbery about the artistry of illuminated books, concern about the class implications, etc. For a while, in order to be more socially acceptable, printers made efforts to make their books look illuminated, creating things like big fancy capital letters they could start chapters with, etc. Eventually, as printed works became the norm, they largely dispensed with such affectations.

    This is chronicled in the book The Rise of the Image, the Fall of the Word by Mitchell Stephens, who also has a few interesting things to say about the rise of writing in the first place.

  56. I love books. I remember longing for oak shelves filled with first edition hard copies when all I could afford was a paperbacks once in a while. Now I have books and I’ve run out of room for them. I still love books, but the intensity has diminished with the familiarity.

    I can’t wait for the Kindle to become a reality for us. Mrs TWC will be the guinea pig because she sometimes travels. Can you imagine? Bringing a whole bag full of books with you on the plane? On Vacation? To the beach?

  57. Why do you buy meat and put it in your freezer, instead of just going to the store whenever you want to eat meat?

    Not the same, my man. Movies on DVD are more apt a comparison.

    Books do have a soul. And I don’t see that changing, but they may well become more expensive as the economies of scale nosedive.

  58. When I lend books to others, do they have to have a Kindle? A compatible one?

    Doesn’t matter, you’ll never see the book again.

  59. Oh…

    -The smell of a burning candle…
    – The feel and sound of a typewriter…
    – The freedom of galloping on a horse without needing any of that newfangled petroleum…

    Get over it. The future is now.

  60. I can’t remember the quote I’m searching for, or maybe even the title of the work that contains it, but I can remember that the book is green, that the margins are unusually wide, and that the quote lies two-thirds of the way down a right-hand page.

    Ummm……search function?

  61. hey, Damon! When you were at the BEA, did you see Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) there?

  62. There’s a point that no one has made yet. This is the main difference between the book technology and the electronic replacement technology.
    There are books that I bought forty years ago, and I still have them, and I can still read them.
    If I switch to buying ‘books’ for my Kindle it’s unlikely I’ll be able to read them even five years from now. How many of us can still read the papers we wrote on our 5 1/4″ disks? When the technology changes (which it does with amazing speed), who’s going to be able to keep changing the format? Eight tracks and glass optical storage leap to mind.
    Meanwhile, the physical book keeps on being readable no matter how storage technology evolves, from ASCII to ANSII, from floppy disks to ‘floppy’ disks to hard drives to thumb drives. And DRM for current (not out of copyright) books will ensure that we can’t move things from one medium to another.
    Muttergrumble…

  63. “If I switch to buying ‘books’ for my Kindle it’s unlikely I’ll be able to read them even five years from now”

    Storage media is always changing but file formats haven’t as much. If you have a Word document from 15 years ago, the current version of Word can read it assuming you can get it off of whatever type of disc you have it on and onto your computer. I have files on my hard drive that have been transferred from 4 different computers since the mid-90s. They are all pretty much readable.

  64. – The smell of a burning candle…
    – The feel and sound of a typewriter…
    – The freedom of galloping on a horse without needing any of that newfangled petroleum…

    I haven’t been expressing myself well in this thread. For the political stuff we discuss there are well-worn formulae to fall back on, but for this I’m grasping for expressions on my own. But I think this is a good angle to pursue.

    The horse to car analogy isn’t exactly correct. It’s more like going from riding a horse to playing a simulation game about riding horses on the computer. [I’m not going to read any better or faster on a kindle. It’s just a less than perfect near duplicate, on a computer device, of my experience of reading a book. So it’s not a dramatic upgrade like a car – it’s just Flight Simulator for books.]

    If I don’t own any horses, I might play such a simulation game. But if I already own horses, or if horses cost 50 cents or a dollar each, why would I play such a game?

    And books don’t need to be fed or have their stables cleaned.

  65. As all these shelves are being cleared by the buyers of Kindle, I expect to be able to buy up the rejected carbon-based volumes nice and cheaply.

  66. People going on trips/commuting/lacking space will find the Kindle, etc. useful. Take 1 book or 20, the weight is the same.

    People who enjoy the tactile pleasures of books (turning the page, the smell, etc.) will continue to use books when convenient.

    Both have their place and as long as people enjoy books (I do myself), they will get made.

  67. “Both have their place and as long as people enjoy books (I do myself), they will get made.”

    Until there are no trees as the world has become one giant desert due to manmade global warming!

  68. I work in a public library and there is still a huge demand for borrowed books, anyway. That said, our attendance would probably drop by 50% is we didn’t provide free internet access.
    Also, like my dad says, you can’t prop up a broken couch leg with a computer…

  69. I love books. I remember longing for oak shelves filled with first edition hard copies when all I could afford was a paperbacks once in a while. Now I have books and I’ve run out of room for them. I still love books, but the intensity has diminished with the familiarity.

    Nope, the intensity is still there. It disturbs me greatly that most of my books are in storage because we’re trying to sell our house. They’re building my new house right now, and one room is going to be a library. I have spiffy 3d models of the room and the bookshelves and everything. They just have to get a little closer to completion so I can get exact measurements instead of plan measurements.

  70. J sub D, I’ve been reading this blog for about a year and I have to say that this is the first time I wholeheartedly disagree with you.

    I love books. I love traveling.

    Even with it’s serious and numerous faults the Kindle will be a no-brainer for me as soon as I get back to the US. Hopefully it will get better.

  71. E-books would only have a shot at replacing the first two types above.

    Good. I’m out of shelf space anyway. And a good chunk of that is paperbacks that I’d be more than happy to toss – leaving more space for “objets d’art”. Win-win. I can’t wait to try one of these out – in the next generation or two when the price comes down and there’s greater storage, better design, etc.

  72. I crave technology and access to all information. That said, a home library will be a permanent fixture for me, and if I ever hit the big time, I’ll have one of those three-story deals with the ladder on wheels. Oh, yeah.

  73. And DRM for current (not out of copyright) books will ensure that we can’t move things from one medium to another.

    Storage media is always changing but file formats haven’t as much.

    Can you purchase non-DRM books? Because the file format doesn’t matter if the files are locked to one device, as we have learned with music.

  74. with the ladder on wheels.

    A friend of mine made one of those for his friends who built a new home in Hawaii with a two story library. He made it by hand out of Koa with brass hardware. It is unbelievably beautiful.

  75. Books will never “die”. When I go to a book store I can grab a hand full of books sit down and flip them open to a page of my choice to get a sense of the authors style. the key point being MY choice, not a snippet chosen by the author, publisher, or worst of all randomly chosen by the retailer. I love the idea of being able to download newspapers, magazines, and textbooks. But I wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive, and I wouldn’t buy a novel without browsing through the shelves.

    Hopefully you will see new and different things finding their niche on the Kindle. Serial novels like King’s The Green Mile would be great in this format. Maybe the lost art of the short story would make a comeback.

  76. I am definitely on the pro-book side of this one.
    One feature of printed books that I do not think has been mentioned here yet, is that you can semi-randomly open to a page and really browse. This is also an advantage of print catalogs over internet shopping. Electronic forms do have the advantage of being easily searchable, but you really can’t randomly turn to a page as with books.

    I also refuse to buy any of these new devices (paperless readers, iPod, cell phones, etc.) as long as they are closed systems and require proprietary software and cumbersome DRM to use.

  77. One feature of printed books that I do not think has been mentioned here yet, is that you can semi-randomly open to a page and really browse.

    Why not? Just have a ‘Random’ button.

    I also refuse to buy any of these new devices … as long as they are closed systems and require proprietary software and cumbersome DRM to use.

    Agreed.

  78. i hope the kindle becomes cool and affordable one of these days.

    on the other hand my dream is to have a big house that’s 50% library so…yeah.

  79. People don’t realize that that gray thingy with the arrows on the right side of this window functions exactly the same as flipping open a book to a certain page.

    And you don’t really open a book to a random page. When was the last time you “randomly” opened a book and wound up at page 2? In reality, you’re heavily favoring pages near the center of the book because they seem more “random” than the ones at the beginning and end.

  80. Chris,
    This is why I say “semi-random”. A random button might take me to page two and I don’t want to see page two, I want to see the middle of the book.

  81. Also, like my dad says, you can’t prop up a broken couch leg with a computer…

    If only, in the course of all human invention, we had developed some other object that might be used to prop up a couch…

  82. Wow! These people must be terribly hard up for something to worry about.

    I have so many physical books it’s a hardship housing them all, not to mention dusting them. I grew up with books. I love them. And I prefer in every way the convenience of reading books on my PDA – a library in my pocket.

    If that’s not to your taste, fine. Do these hand-wringers think people are going to come around and yank the dead-tree books from their hands?

    How wonderful, though, that this world holds no real dangers to concern ourselves with.

  83. I have books AND I have a Kindle. I like them both. The story’s the thing. I also like to listen to audio books in the shower…

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