Column: The pros and cons of ebooks
Published: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - 4:29pm
In this new generation of Facebook, the iPod, and texting, the growing popularity of ebooks shouldn't come as a surprise to me. Still, I don't feel the need to keep up with the technology on this occasion. My friends and family can testify that I'm a pretty tech-savvy person, and while I like to marvel at each new iPod, I have not once been tempted to buy a Kindle. Not yet, anyway.
By no means am I opposed to ebooks entirely; they have their place, I'm sure. No, what bothers me most is something people have started saying-- something that makes me shudder with fear and denial-- that print books may be becoming obsolete.
For centuries, books have been present in every educated person's life, and now those same people are suggesting that we do away with the printed page? A typical reader of ebooks will reply with a "Well, you're reading the same material, so it doesn't really matter," an answer that makes me wilt a little inside.
If books do become obsolete, there will be so much missing from the experience of reading a novel, or even something as superficial as a textbook. There would be no going to the library to check out the book, or to the bookstore to buy it. There would be no satisfying weight of a hardback, and no cracking the spine of a paperback.
To what, then, would the experience of book-reading evolve? Would libraries exist only online, their empty buildings eventually demolished and turned to parking lots?
Of course, I have a hard time believing that print books will really be wiped out for good. I won't disregard the argument that ebooks might be more environmentally friendly, but I don't think that means that books need to disappear. What about the jobs that would be lost if publishers stopped printing?
Just a little over a week ago, the New York Times announced that they will allow ebooks to join their bestseller list next year. Even those snarky New York Times people are accepting ebooks as quickly as our generation has adapted to carrying a phone around wherever we go.
Though I will persistently trudge eight long blocks in the cold to the Urbana Free Library on Saturday to check out David Sedaris' new book, these new technologies aren't just fads. I suppose I'll need to get used to ebooks, too.