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A Library at Our Fingertips

Josh Cacopardo has a well-written, funny, and enthusiastic essay in The Curator magazine entitled “The Willful Death of a Luddite”, about his conversion to e-readers. Cacopardo cites a number of reasons for his move “into the future of literary technology,” including the availability of free out-of-copyright books, the convenience of e-readers, and “the rapture of having an entire catalogue of literary classics at your fingertips, any time you want.” Cacopardo’s piece deserves a full response but with my own writing deadlines looming, I will have to postpone. For now, I’ll just mention three things.

First, I’ve never understood the appeal of having an entire library of books at one’s fingertips. Are we reading the library all at once? Isn’t it sufficient – maybe even preferable – to limit our reading to the number of books that can fit comfortably into a backpack or a back pocket? What is the practical use of having access to a virtual Library of Alexandria every minute of the day…or as long as the battery life on your e-reader.

Second, Cacopardo mentions that he wants to buy Kindles for his unborn kids. I think this was a joke, which is good because the technology will be obsolete by their first birthday. This is one of the benefits of print books. They may or may not go out of style, but they don’t require software upgrades, file conversions, or extended warranties.

Lastly, I’d like to point you to a conversation Jordan and I had about e-readers several months ago on this blog. Here is my initial post (“Smaller Cellphones, Bigger Books”), then Jordan’s response (“I’m Scared of New Things!”), and then my response to Jordan (“In Defense of Nostalgia”).

This is an important conversation, and, while I may disagree with some of his conclusions, I appreciate The Curator magazine’s and Josh Cacopardo’s thoughtful contributions to it.

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One comment on “A Library at Our Fingertips

  1. There is an article in the New York Times today (being Monday, December 5, 2011 and one day before Andrew Huss’ birthday) about publishers’ attempts to “glamorize” printed books in an attempt to stave off the shift to ebooks. I realize the article doesn’t directly bear on the discussion, but I thought it would be worth mentioning. With sincerest regards and profound envy for your new official career status, DR Jones.

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