Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Relax, books are here to stay

Some of the arguments for and against ereaders (like the SonyReader, which I originally talked about here) seem to turn on the idea that its either new technology or books, not both. I find that the most frustrating part of the argument. Even if ereaders do mean the end of the book, it's a long way down the line. People will have to be very used to ereaders before that ever happens. And I'm not sure it will ever happen.

Books have proven to be great technology. People still own books going back centuries. As Nick Mamatas once pointed out, how many 5 1/4" floppy disks are you still using? Books will always (at least, as far as I can imagine) have that leg up on other technologies: it doesn't become obsolete. If everyone is using an ereader a hundred years from now, they can still pick up a real book and read it.

As I see it, ereaders will be a choice, something we can use to read with if we so choose. It's for reading on the go. It's for reading things in the public domain that corporations don't want to publish. It's for reading manuals and technical stuff that you need to keep with you. With any luck, it will inspire new ways of reading short stories published on the Internet. (Wouldn't it be great to download the latest issue of The Fortean Bureau, for example, and read it on the road?)

Now, can we stop the hyperbole about the future of books and just talk about the possibilities ereaders can open to those of us who enjoy reading?

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