the death of books…?

“If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.”Charles Lindbergh

History has been witness to the constant change that technology has brought in our lives – from the horse driven carriages to automobiles, from the typewriter to the keyboard, from gramophones to mp3 players. The world around us constantly changes. As technology advances and new inventions come in fashion, older ones slowly become obsolete. Can you imagine a life without automobiles, computers and cell phones? Is there no room left for the slow, old inventions of the past? Or is it that the technological advances have made our lives drastically better and we need to let go of the nostalgic past? Like every other invention is it now time for books to depart?

While searching for holiday gifts, I came across the Kindle on Amazon.com – the ebook reader by Amazon. When the Kindle first came out in November 2007, there was a huge hype and everybody wanted to find out about this new gadget. From 2007 to now we have seen the e-book reader market grow and have seen many other e-readers being introduced to the market (like Barnes & Nobles e-reader Nook, Sonys e-book etc.). Does this mean that sooner or later we will have no need for physical books, that digitized content would replace the paper and type?

There is something magical about holding and reading a book – the whole experience of flipping through the pages, the smell of the pages, the texture, the feeling of getting involved in the story, the process of walking into a library and going through shelves of books to actually making the effort to select, review and read a book is a unique and special experience. Books have given us great scholars and wonderful stories. They have aged with us and have kept history alive for us. They have allowed us to imagine. And, most importantly they have introduced us to our modern day libraries and museums.

It is true that the e-book reader is easier to carry than a book. It is also true that the e-reader reduces the need to cut trees and make paper. And yes, it is true that the e-reader offers our society the ability to grow towards a technological future. Having said that, it is also important to note the problems that the e-book reader brings. Firstly, the e-book reader takes away the whole magical experience of reading a book, of sharing those bed time stories with your kids, of making them learn through images and words, of interacting with an object that has a personality and a meaning. The e-book reader needs power and creates a new kind of waste (uses up electrical energy/power which in turn requires sources) – all machines emit CO2 so in a way it’s not all that sustainable.

Most importantly I see e-books eliminating the need to read altogether. Imagine a future where there are no books, no bookstores and no libraries because everything is available on your e-book reader. The world has changed. You can set your e-book reader to play the book out loud to you. Will reading hold the same importance as it once did? You don’t need to read because technology does all the work for you. I have nothing against technology. In fact, I love all my gadgets but somewhere deep down I am skeptical to the idea of replacing my book with a digital tool.

It is a future reminiscent of the movie ‘Equilibrium’ where people aren’t allowed to read books (because they might develop emotions that could result in love and war) and Christian Bale goes around destroying books and art pieces. Maybe that’s going a little too far with the idea. But are we ready to let go of books? Are we ready to let technology dictate what stays and what goes? Do e-book readers offer a positive change?

It would be interesting for readers to note that Barnes & Nobles e-reader Nook went on Sale in the U.S. today.

Images from Amazon.com and Wired.com

Article Written for and Published on Amvona.com

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