Have hard-bound books become the newest eight-track—outdated and unusable? The Kindle and the Sony e-reader etc. etc.—are they the future of books? Will we consign ourselves to the virtual reading of virtual books? Will we no longer stand in long lines to have a famous author sign the title page of his/her most recent accomplishment?
In my wildest dreams, I could never have imagined such a thing happening. As a virtual author trying to get her first book published, I have to wonder if technology has rendered me obsolete. It’s a scary thought, especially in light of Barnes & Noble’s recent decision to put their company up for sale.
Yet, according to Robert Robb, a columnist for the Arizona Republic, and a die-hard real book reader who has recently discovered the benefits of e-readers, it’s not a bad thing for authors as much as it’s a bad thing for the traditional publishing world.
But, I have to wonder still—if traditional publishers go down the toilet—Will their be e-book advertising? Who will pay for it? If traditional publishers become obsolete, who will be the voice of reason and experience for readers and let them know which books merit their time?
I can see the advantage of e-readers when traveling. I could take as many books on a trip as I’d like without having to worry that my carry-on is too big, or too heavy. I could buy e-books for pennies on the dollar for what a real book costs—and rent them from the library without ever having to leave home. After purchasing ten novels (which I generally do at one writer’s conference per year), I will have paid for, or nearly so, an e-reader. They’re easy to use and read, too, from what I’ve heard.
But e-readers also have their disadvantages. They’re expensive. They’re always being upgraded. They take us one step further away from personal/human interaction. In this high-tech world where texting replaces personal conversation, where wall-sized televisions replace our desire to visit with the next-door neighbors, and computers/the Internet has made obsolete our need to leave our homes and go to the store—e-readers are taking us one more step toward this less-personal world.
Now books—they’re personal. They aren’t a big investment, and a book is always a book—no need to upgrade. We can share the books we love. We can have the author sign them. We can buy used books for pennies on the dollar compared to the price of a new book. Children can read a book in a tree without ever having to worry about dropping it and breaking it. If you get ketchup on it while you're eating, it's not too big of a deal. We don’t have to buy new batteries for a book. And … what about the millions of children worldwide who can’t afford e-readers? Will e-readers turn reading into an activity for the upper-middle class?