It’s an author’s job to “suspend disbelief.” Not to make the fantasy so convincing that people will argue over whether it’s factual or implausible or downright impossible, but to make the reader “suspend their disbelief” long enough to simply enjoy a good story. And that’s what a leather cover on an eInk version of an eReader does. It will never replace a book.
Yes, I am contributing to the downfall of the economy and civilization as we know it. This is WalMart for introverts who panic at the thought of being greeted by somebody’s grandpa at the whoosh of an automatic door.
Paper-and-ink books are, nevertheless, important. They are essential. I fear that anyone who doubts it lacks imagination; that, or their imagination is a blessedly sweet place where unicorns frolic and nothing bad ever happens.
Children’s books ought to be physical books – and eBooks, where it makes sense for them to be. Imagine Pat the Bunny as an eBook. And who wants to leave their eReader in a crib? My parents left books in my crib, convinced that would help to make them friendly, familiar objects as I grew older, and turn me into a lifelong reader. Who am I to quibble? It seems to have worked! My book, A New Leaf for Lyle, is fine as an eBook, but Trockle? I think it depends on when and where you’re reading it. As its author, I selfishly hope that you are reading it at bedtime, with your toddler tucked under one arm and the book in the other, while helping each other to turn the pages. But if you are traveling, packing as light as you can, and your toddler wants to re-read Trockle on the airplane as it soars 35,000 feet above the Atlantic, an eBook version – which, by the way, isn’t yet available – might make sense. Better yet – what if every paper-and-ink version of a book included the eBook? Amazon does this, now, for selected titles – or makes the eBook version available for just a dollar more. I think that’s a bargain.
Enduring literature ought to be printed on good paper in quality ink, as should useful historical facts, philosophy, and technical knowledge. Why? Because we can still read that, three thousand years from now. Try reading a file you saved on a 5¼” diskette in 1990. If you own a newer notebook PC, does it even read CDs or DVDs? Where are your bookshelves? Who keeps them well stocked for you?
You might say, “What does it matter? Who cares that we can read some dusty, crumbling old text written thousands of years ago? Knowledge evolves so fast – nobody’s got time for that!” What about learning the lessons of history direct from the minds of those who lived it? What about The Bible, The Qur’an, The Torah? What about the works of Aristotle, Plato, Socrates?
Every author hopes you’ll want to read and reread their novels, their thoughts on life, their motivational scribbles. We realize that in a throw-away society, most of them will end up in second-hand, half-price bookstores; library fundraisers; or landfills – sooner, rather than later. Paper makes great compost, and most inks are vegetable based, these days. But there are important reasons not to rely solely on the convenience and portability of eBooks and eReaders.
Imagine a day when the power goes out, and someone’s forgotten how to turn it back on. Imagine a dystopian future where books contain the knowledge – not to mention the motivational support – needed to reboot civilization. There may come a day when we need to teach high schoolers how to grow food, or to teach computer geeks how to sew clothing – a day when writers must learn to build a house and teachers will need to create light to learn by. Imagine a time when all the knowledge that took man to the moon is lost – and must either be read from books and stacks of documentation or rediscovered the hard way.
Or, imagine a darker future in which those who control knowledge control power. Read Fahrenheit 451. Read 1984. And imagine the day your eReader only serves up state-approved reading material. All libraries are gone; they’ve been replaced by computers run on servers run by an organization like Erudite.
Or just imagine a day when the entire Internet has crashed. It was designed to withstand thermonuclear attack, but was it designed to run out of funding?
I’m not worried; it’s not likely to happen in my lifetime.
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