We have heard all kinds of crazy claims about the negatives of adopting e-books. Every year that goes by, people get more comfortable with the idea of publishing and consuming e-books. Author Jonathan Franzen is certainly not a fan of e-books. In fact, he thinks the world might not work because digital does not feel permanent (at least to him):
Maybe nobody will care about printed books 50 years from now, but I do. When I read a book, I’m handling a specific object in a specific time and place. The fact that when I take the book off the shelf it still says the same thing — that’s reassuring … Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change…. Will there still be readers 50 years from now who feel that way? Who have that hunger for something permanent and unalterable? I don’t have a crystal ball. But I do fear that it’s going to be very hard to make the world work if there’s no permanence like that. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government.
When changes happen, not everyone reacts to them the same way. Some want to fight the change while others adopt it and use it to their advantage. Mr. Franzen loves the idea of print books being permanent. After all, we could always go back in time to see what a certain author had said about a topic years ago. With e-books, that may be harder to do but not impossible.
Many of us who grew up with printed books have found it hard to switch completely to e-books. The future generations may not spend a whole lot of time around printed books. At the same time, thanks to the richness of the e-book platforms around, they will get a more interactive experience out of their books. Those who do not like the idea of e-books will have enough years to enjoy printed books. The idea of fighting e-books because they are not permanent enough is a bit ridiculous though.
What’s your take?