I was an early adoptee of the iPod and have just upgraded my brick of a cell phone to a new, shiny iPhone. I Twitter (@Tartitude), I’m on FaceBook, and I blog. I don’t consider myself a Luddite by any means, but I am not enamored of e-books readers for several reasons:
1. A primary sensibility for me is kinesthetic, so I’m one of those people who gets high on the smell of books, their heft, the texture of the page, etc. That’s just who I am. It’s never going to change.
2. My to-be-read pile is so ridiculous that the need for an urgent book upload at 3 AM just isn’t gonna happen. Please! Have we become a society so used to instant gratification that we require this service? And if you truly believe that this convenience buys you happiness, I suggest you spend a little time reading the positive psychology research. “Pleasure” and “happiness” are two very different beasts.
3. I am not going to spend $400 for each of the four people in our family, understanding that there is a built-in obsolescence for a single-purpose device and that they all will have to be replaced in a few years. This has huge implications for our environment – I’m thinking e-waste, the mining for rare earth metals, groundwater contamination from mercury…
4. I’m not going to spend $9.99 for a book and then not be able to share it with my daughter, pass it on to a friend/library/seniors’ center.
Yes, I’m frugal. I shop in Good Will at times, I donate to Good Will often. I believe that one man’s garbage is another’s treasure and it physically pains me to throw out items that still are useful, just not for me. I also purchase my music through iTunes at times, but that’s different; there are four iPods that share the music and as far as I understand, I own it. I haven’t just paid to rent it longterm.
5. I love my local library as a place of community. I am buzzed by the mere act of walking into my local bookstore. What are these gathering places going to look like in the future? Maybe no one else will care, but the day I go in to the library and it looks like an Internet café will be the day I’ll shed bitter tears. Oh, I’ll survive, but my kids will have to put up with tales about The Good Old Days. Do you seriously want to put them through that?
6. The ethical issue about censorship, as exemplified in the recent Amazon debacle. If you haven’t read this article, do. It summarizes the issue significantly better than I can. The issue isn’t about whether Amazon deleted illegally obtained e-books, it is that they can.
There is a parallel here, in my mind, to the lessons of the environmental movement. Genetic diversity is being lost at a staggering rate because of mono-cultures, behemoths like Monsanto, and climate change. The environmentalists have responded proactively by opening up seedbanks, like this.
So my question is this: if we proceed with e-readers and give one or two giant corporations the ability to control access, ranking, and availability, are we going to need a book bank one day? And if so, can I be the chief librarian? And can my domain look like this library in Sydney?
But those are my opinions and they are fluid. What say the rest of you about e-book readers, censorship, and our ability to trust corporate entities to protect our culture and heritage?