Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A World of Ebooks

I would love to hear your perspective on the topic of e-readers and their impact on us as social creatures. Growing up, I was surrounded by books, and to this day I love to touch, feel, and read them . I gauged whether a man was "date-worthy" depending on not only whether he had a library of books but more important, whether he read the classics. Have you ever spied on someone at the grocery store and painted a fairly quick picture of them based on what they purchased? The same goes with personal libraries.

My son was born last year and I try to envision what the world will be like when he's my age (41) and everyone's library is stored in a small electronic device. If you want to draw a
New Yorker-style cartoon in your head, the future home libraries will still have the overstuffed leather chair and the tasteful red Persian carpet. The bookshelves stand empty and in one stands a lone Kindle.

Respecting your thoughts and opinions, I would love to hear what you think about e-books and the inevitable death of the paper book and hope to read a blog one day on this topic.

The strangest thing about this question is that on the same morning this landed in my inbox I had been thinking the same thing. I was walking down the stairs in my house eyeing the bookshelf overflowing with books and wondering if my children and their children and their children’s children would love books a little less because they won’t be surrounded by them?

As a child I too was surrounded by books and was often encouraged to read based on the books in the bookshelves around me. In other words, the books themselves inspired me to read. I remember sitting at friends’ houses and scouring their bookshelves, and like this reader, I remember gauging my interest in other people based on what they read. In fact, I remember meeting people and talking to strangers on the subway all because one of us was reading a certain book.

I do think that a world of e-readers will change that and I hope it doesn’t change things for the worse. Will children, will people, be less inspired to read because they don’t have walls of books to grab their interest? Will strangers avoid spontaneous conversation because an e-reader has no cover and there’s no way to know what someone is reading, there’s no opening for an offhand comment about the book one is reading?

I guess, when you think about it, it’s a little like the loss of the front porch. There was a time when the front porch was the heart of a neighborhood. People didn’t drive everywhere, they walked. People didn’t sit inside, in the air-conditioning, in front of TVs, they sat on the front porch to keep cool and talked to neighbors as they passed by. In fact, they sat on the front porch and read books.

I like my e-book. I still really like paper books. I certainly think e-books are the wave of the future, but I’m not entirely convinced they are going to fully replace paper books any time soon. I don’t know what’s going to happen to readers and to “the love of books.” But it certainly does give one much to think about.