I imagine that when the codex started to replace the scroll there were those who thought the soul would go out of books. In turn, when the printing press came along, and books were no longer lovingly hand copied, I’m sure there were plenty of folks to bemoan the death of culture.
Now author Andrew Keen is bemoaning the arrival of the e-reader, which “… replace the physical warmth of the paper book with the coldness of the digital version.” It always amazes me to see people moaning and groaning about new technology as though that was going to make some sort of difference to what happens. The simple fact is that ebooks allow more efficient distribution of more information. People can access what they want more easily. Authors can access the market with less overhead, which may be one reason traditional authors and publishers get annoyed.
But the bottom line is that just like the codex and the printing press, the day of the e-reader is coming, indeed it is pretty much here. My sales are still predominantly in print editions, but that is in the process of changing.
So get ready for it. Get used to it. The time is not far off when your library can be contained in a device about the size of one book. I must confess that I’m tempted to moan a bit too. I love the books fill shelves all around my office. I have to take a moment to remind myself that this is all OK. Had I been a scribe required to copy his first codex, I would probably have complained about the new fangled invention.
But in the end I’d say it’s just a new way of spreading the wealth of knowledge and beauty that is available to us. Don’t just learn to live with it. Thrive on it!