Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Turn the page

Brian Matthews is to be heartily commended for his spirited defence of the printed book against the e-book in a recent article in Eureka Street. The more aggressive advocates of the e-book would have everyone embrace this new technology, deriding the printed book as old hat. Of necessity, some special libraries have done away with physical books altogether. In some academic disciplines, such as information technology and some branches of engineering, the body of knowledge moves so fast that printed books were outdated before they were produced, necessitating a complete shift to electronic distribution. Since the technology is yet to receive mass market acceptance, it remains to be seen what impact this trend will have on my branch of librarianship.

I'm no Luddite, but when it comes to books, I'd prefer to read from a printed page rather than a screen or on a portable media device of some description, such as Amazon's Kindle, or Sony's new Reader. To me, turning pages is part of the experience of reading, helping the reader to engage with the text, not to mention the other advantages that printed books have. Can a e-book be placed on your bookcase at home, allowing you to create the impression that you're well-read and learned? Can an e-book be passed on as a family heirloom, or loaned to friends? Can you curl up in your favourite chair with an e-book? The answer to all these questions is an emphatic no. These observations aside, libraries will need to adapt to and adopt these technologies, but as far as can be determined, these will coexist with print media, and not replace it entirely.

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