ebooks and Things Digital

I played with a Sony ebook reader in John Lewis last week. I love gadgets and I am no stranger to technology – I once had a Psion Organiser (remember those?) and a mobile phone the size and weight of a small house brick and which only worked in London. But I also love books, and the thought of curling up on a sofa and reading a small glowing screen does not appeal to me. But what about those times when I’m not curled up, times when I am on a bus, a train or a plane and I want to read a novel but don’t want to carry a book? I hogged the Sony reader in JL for about 30 minutes, like boys on an x-box. It impressed me. I liked it. I thought about my collection of vinyl years ago, how I’d thrown them out to make way for the new CDs. Then my treasured Canon A1 camera, shoved aside when digital image technology became good enough, and affordable enough, to be used in cameras. So why not ebooks?
Why not, indeed. I was never really sure who Santayana was (I have just Googled him, so now I know) but I do know that saying of his, that ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ Vinyl to CD? Kodachrome to digital?
So, printed book to ebook…? Yes, surely, but probably not completely. For most people, iPods haven’t ousted CDs, each has its uses. There is ceremony here, the satisfaction of browsing through a collection, taking a CD and inserting it into the player. We get similar satisfaction from browsing through books on a bookseller’s shelves. We don’t just go because we want to by a book, we also go for the feelings. Personally, if the bookshop hasn’t got coffee then I won’t bother, I will buy online. Take note, booksellers!
The printed book has a way to go yet, though I am convinced that one day we will no longer be able to browse through novels in a bookstore, we will browse online instead, downloading the first page or so of a novel and then a couple of pages at random to see if we like what we are about to buy.
When will this happen?
Quite suddenly.

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