Although many library users are excited about the ability to download electronic books onto their computers and iPods – and to do this free of charge – others passionately prefer the printed book – and some of us always will.
One partisan of the “book book” is film critic Roger Ebert. Here are some excerpts from his May 2000 essay entitled “Don’t You Dare Call Me E-Roger”:
“…I treasure my books with a voluptuous regard. Every time I move, they come with me, carton after carton, proof of Anthony Powell’s dictum, ‘Books do furnish a room.’ I remember where and when I read the books I love most….
…I like and feel of books. I like their smell and riffling their pages. I plunder used-book stores for editions that give me physical pleasure….Computer disks would save a lot of space, but could I cherish and gloom over them? If you handed me a disk holding every book I had ever read, I would feel as if my lifetime of reading had been cremated and I was holding the ashes.
E-books do have their uses. They allow students to dump their backpacks. They make text searches easy. They also offer a definition of any word you click on – but dammit, I like to look up words in my battered Oxford Concise Dictionary., the one I bought near the South Kensington tube stop in London in 1965….
…The Microsoft Reader people not only see a rosy future for their product but also have the chutzpah to conjure up a time line for it in their ad campaign. By 2005, we learn, sales of e-books, e-magazines, and e-newspapers will top $1 billion. By 2009, e-books will begin to outsell paper books in many categories. By 2018, major newspapers will publish their final editions. By 2019, ‘paper books remain popular as gifts.’ And, by 2010 (I am not making this up), ‘Webster alters its 1st definition of the word “book” to refer to e-book titles read on screen.’
It provides some consolation, I suppose, that this ad was written by people who think first is spelled 1st (they should look it up on their e-book). My own time line runs a little differently: by 2002, e-books are being sharply discounted in bins near the door of Best Buy. By 2003, e-book enthusiasts join DiscoVision, Commodore, and Pixelvision fans in trading their relics on eBay. By 2004, several books have analyzed the e-book debacle. By 2020, they’re all out of print.”