Luddites, the exit door is that way

So ….

In the course of my nightly internet trolling (which isn’t as fun or dirty as you might think), I happened on this interesting article on CNN.com:

E-book sales top paperbacks for first time

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The publishing tide is shifting fast: E-book sales in February topped all other formats, including paperbacks and hardcovers, according to an industry report released this week.

You can read the whole thing here.

Now, there are some caveats involved.  The sales numbers in the article are reported by publishers, not retailers.  And e-books are not beating all books, in all formats and genres.

Still, I think this is a good thing.

I read testimonials from folks who think the printed word is superior and how they love the feel of paper in their hands.  Some cite the high initial purchase costs of e-readers.  Others state that the physical book never runs out of batteries.  All well and good points.

Well, so what?  The e-readers have certain advantages too:  carrying hundreds of books at once, the ability to (after one-time purchase) replace the book at will on the local reader (i.e., it can’t be permanently lost or destroyed, even if the reader is gone), and – in some cases, like the Nook Color – read in the dark.

I am all for anything that gets more people reading.  That’s why, as much as I was aghast at the slop that made up the Twilight series, I don’t complain too loud:  it drew people to read who hadn’t much before.  Ditto Harry Potter.  My son has probably not read a paperback cover-to-cover in over a decade.  But he reads on the computer – insatiably, at times.  Maybe it is a function of a younger generation, who has grown up in the glow of computer monitors, and are more at ease reading on screens.  But people who won’t pick up a book can and do read online.  No reason why they can’t read on a Kindle.

I read semi-apocalyptic screeds about the demise of the printed word, the lack of refinement of e-books, etc.  These all feel like mild overreactions – the same as I read against every new technology that shakes a business model.  Unless we enter a Dark Age, technology will keep marching … but books will never truly disappear.  Too many like them.  And if they do, it will be sometime in the far future, when everyone reading this blog is in the grave, and we have our internet/books/movies/porn piped directly into our head.

I understand that everyone has their own preferences.  Follow them – and leave the those who use technology free to do the same.  It won’t be the end of civil society.

After all, isn’t more choice better than less?

Edit:  Yes, I am posting on Friday night.  Yes, it’s pathetic.

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