Anything that assumes (worse, that requires) a highly complex form of access and delivery takes away from the universal usability of the book. Then there is the question of preservation, a very important one. Thanks to the nonpreservation efforts of film companies, we lost 3/4 of all silent films. That is not a bad example of what can happen.
I doubt anyone suggests burning THE BOOK OF KELLS just because it's plates are available on line. On the other hand, personal preference certainly does come into play when media changes. I have read 2 conventional books since last May. Frankly, the convenience of finding, ordering, and reading on my Kindle is so much more entertaining as well as convenient, I think this is what will drive users as they actually encounter these devices. I've always laughed at the numerous young people I meet who say they "can't" watch black & white movies. I don't agree with them, I think it's stupid, but I sort of get it. They're used to seeing color and b&w doesn't seem "real" to them. I think this is how electronic devices will impact publishing. The original sized Kindle is much lighter than a conventional paper back book and less than a quarter of an inch thick. You can mark (and unmark) passages and go right to them without the book looking all marked up. Index
don't work so well, but you have a direct search feature. Tables of contents, in well-produced volumes, enable you to navigate immediately to a chapter or story with the push of a button. One can easily share content with others without giving up the content yourself. Personally, I've always hated lending books. Over the past 20 years I just don't do it. I'll buy you the book before I'll lend you mine. I just don't like losing the book so you can read it... which is usually what happens. With electronic content this is not an issue.
As long as our culture lasts this advancement will be a benefit. Admittedly, it will be very difficult for a later culture to try to access our computer files, compact disks, etc. On the other hand, our buildings and machines won't last, either. We don't build the way the Egyptians did. We can't afford to. Mt. Rushmore will be there, not much else will survive. Books made of paper will not survive, either. I always remember the words of the great Henry Miller, "Do I look like a man who gives a shit what will happen after he's dead?"
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