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My friend pointed me to a new toy, called the eBook while we were chatting this morning, and I went to take a look. Basically it's a little electronic thing you can hold in your hand, and it holds books. Up to 10 books in the basic package, and then you can get a bigger memory chip and hold lots and lots more books (up to 190, they say, although I have to wonder how big those books really are. Are we talking Harlequin romance length, or weighty tombs like Steven King's "It")
I'll admit it looks really neat. Hey, the ability to carry that many books around in your pocket without throwing your back out *is*, indeed, quite tempting. But it reminds me of a short story I read, many many years ago. I don't remember the title, or the author (although it might have been Asimov), but the jist of it was that a little boy found a 'real' book in his attic. And he and his friend, a little girl, got very excited....but then were disappointed because, unlike their computer screen on which they read all their books now, it didn't change stories. It just stayed the same, no matter what.
An electronic copy of a book would definitely be very nice. It's lightweight, much more portable, and takes up significantly less room on a bookshelf. It wouldn't have that annoying habit of turning brittle and crumbling after a few decades (see note on moldering below). Of course, this is assuming that you can store these on a hard drive somewhere that doesn't crash, but I'm being optimistic here.
However, there is just nothing quite like a real book. The smell of the pages - crisp and sharp when first purchased, and then that older, musty smell when it's been moldering on some shelf in a dusty old library. The sound a book makes when you first crack it open. The feel of the pages as you turn them. I can't imagine taking an eBook and curling up on a comfy overstuffed chair some Saturday morning with a cat and a cup of steaming coffee....or hunkering down amid fluffy pillows (with, of course, a cat or three) in your bed late one night while it storms outside. No, with an eBook, I see harried business executives scanning documents while waiting for planes, or clumps of nerds checking the actual wording of some obscure gaming rule (Yes, I game. Therefore I'm entitled to poke fun at it. So there). But this gadget does not inspire visions of comfort and relaxation.
I dunno. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned. But I don't think I'll be buying one of these new toys. I'll stick with real books. Even if they *don't* fit in my back pocket.