As I've mentioned before, e-books and the e-book reader is a revolution at least as great as the transition from film photography to digital, and just as with film diehards the same sorts of objections to the new e-book medium crop up, from those who are traditional, inflexible and apparently incapbale of recognising a good thing when they see it. <snip>
The fact that one can carry around on one's person, whether visiting the local doctor or dentist, or travelling to the Himalayas on a 3 month trek, a large personal library of 3,000 books, pdfs, camera manuals etc, that weigh in total just 800gms, is absolutely remarkable.
Thats what I call progress.
I disagree. Digital photography actually changed everything, including process; not only did it greatly extend what cameras can do, the function of the camera, it greatly extended what people can do with resulting photographs. Despite what film enthusiasts say, film has almost *no* real advantage over digital. The case with e-books is quite different. After all the jumping up and down is done, you still read the book. E-readers didn't give us higher ISOs, or encourage us to manipulate the texts, or provide us with an easier way to make our own texts. All they did was provide us with another, and not always better, way to read - and some people, including me, will tell you that e-readers are not as good an experience as paper books. I read books on an iPad, and that's fine; and though I was really on-board with the idea of being able to carry dozens of books and manuals when I travel, and all the other things that make iPads handy, after having it for more than a year, I have five or six books on it, including one PDF manual. And that's about it. And of the several people I know who have iPads, we're all about the same. We might buy an e-book, but then we read it, and that's it. We don't read it again. So we have a few books, but they're essentially irrelevant, because we're done with them. If they'd been paperbacks, we would have given them away. When traveling, we use them to find Starbucks, or call up a map...but the last time I traveled across the country, I forgot mine, but it didn't make too much difference, because I had my laptop with me. I guess what I'm saying is, the iPad (and the Nook and the Kindle) are interesting innovations, but not critical innovations, as the digital camera was. Or the cell phone. Or the laptop. The innovations with those things was that they cut us free from various tethers -- but with books, we were already pretty much cut free. Didn't even need batteries.
But the thing about paper books...I have a large collection of art books. The color prints inside are far better than anything I can get on an iPad, which actually has a pretty great screen. Not only that, if I have, say, a history of Impressionism, but I want to look at a particular painting, but don't remember the name of it (which is pretty common), or if I want to look at certain kinds of paintings, I can just flip through the book in a few seconds and find it. I flip through by thinking, "Okay, Impressionism is going to be toward the end of this book, and I think that painting was on the left-hand page, but even if not, when I start seeing Impressionist paintings I'm close..." That experience does not exist with e-books. Looking at an index is not the same as browsing.
I do think that e-books will be an important format, especially in certain niches. Guidebooks, for one. Guides in general. Reference books, perhaps. Scholarly journals may quickly move to all-electronic formats. But those are relatively minor categories of books...and I can tell you, neither Confucius nor Shakespeare is really burning up the best-seller lists...So it'll be an important format, but basically, just another one. In 20 years, we'll still be reading be reading paperbacks, because they're cheap and sturdy and disposable. But in twenty years, you'll be hard-pressed to find a film camera, a wired phone, or a typewriter.