From Nathan Bransford's 11/20/09 column:
"And this is why I believe e-books are going to win in the end, and probably sooner than we think. It's simply vastly more efficient to download any book you could possibly want instantaneously and read a book on a screen (even better if it's a screen you already have, hello smartphone) than to cut down a tree, make paper, print ink on it, bind it, ship it across the country in a plane or a truck or both, and make someone walk or drive to a physical store (who may or may not have the book they want) every time they want to read a book.
"I think we'll look back on the print era and marvel about all those people who were responsible for delivering all these individual printed objects, kind of like how there used to be a fleet of milk men in every city rather than one guy driving a truck to a couple of supermarkets.
"To be sure, no technology disappears completely - people still ride horses, go to plays, type on typewriters, listen to record players, and send handwritten letters. And printed books aren't going to disappear either. All of these technologies have advantages and an associated nostalgia that people will always want to preserve and experience. There will still be printed books and physical bookstores, even if there are far fewer of them.
"But things tend to move in one direction: toward greater efficiency and productivity. There's always a delay as people adapt to the new technology, but prices come down, the technology gets better, and the efficiency spreads.
"Printed books have their advantages, but they don't win where it counts. Nature may abhor a vacuum, but human nature abhors a bottleneck."
Nathan Bransford simply states the general feel of what I've been hearing throughout the writing community as well as the "book" community. As an employee of Barnes and Noble (my extra job), I've been indoctrinated regarding the new nook and I confess the machine is tempting and in all likelihood I'll get one someday if only to be able to keep reading the books I want to read.
Even so, my argument is, was and always will be that ebooks are for the wealthy and the wealthy ONLY. And yes, I am included in that label. In the Seven Worlds Index (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_worlds_index), the nook, kindle and other e-readers, will be available to most in the First and Second Worlds, many in the Third and Seventh Worlds, some in the Fourth and Fifth Worlds and few in the Sixth World.
NOT ONE of the poor will be able to afford a book. Not ONLY will they not be able to afford it, even if gifted with one, they will not be able to maintain it. Books need no power. EVERY ereader does. It needs technology to exist, it needs technology to support it, it needs technology to use it.
It is insufferably self-centered of the wealthy to assume that they and they alone read and think. Because that's what it comes down to. The assumption that no one who cannot afford to have an ipod, iphone, nook, kindle or any OTHER ereading device isn't "really" worth the effort to educate is the hidden message in this movement to yank reading from the hands of the poor and concentrate it in the hands of the wealthy -- who will eventually be the only ones able to access new information. The gap has been growing for years and excpet for libraries, shows no sign whatsoever of stopping. (And locally, library funding is regularly curtailed in favor of road funding...)
Last of all, when the comet strikes, when the plague happens, when disaster overcomes the human race and civilization collapses in chaos, we will not be ABLE to access the books online, the CDs, the efiles and ecommerce. Information will disappear or become inaccessible. If we believe that Humanity is eternal and that we will ALWAYS beat the odds, dodge the bullet or survive the plague, then we are not considering history nor are we considering the fallibility and frailty of Humanity.
WHEN it collapses, the more we have stored electronically, the more we will lose. The more we squirrel away in the internet, the more we will have to rediscover when it is forever lost...