Recently my mother gave me her old Kindle, the first model, saying that she didn’t use it much. Partly that might have been because she lives in an area without the Sprint 3G access, but mostly she seemed to miss the “book” feel.
I finished one book on it already, and I didn’t miss the paper. That may be because it was a philosophy book, and I mostly read nonfiction that calls for a no-nonsense, literal reading. I certainly will not read Stephen R. Donaldson’s next book on the Kindle, however. I’ll pay the full price of $25 – $30 and revel in the full-page, ink-on-paper typography in a solid, full-size hardcover volume. I also probably won’t get an ebook version of any nonfiction book from the 1940s on that I can get in a cheap paperback trade edition. I have a peculiar attraction to mid-twentieth-century paperback editions of philosophy, sociology, psychology, physics, and literature.
On the other hand, there are lots of books I want to read that I can barely pay attention to for more than 15 minutes, so it is convenient to have a selection of them available in one place as ebooks. I appreciate the fact that I can carry a whole bunch of unfinished ebooks around and read little bits of them whenever I have the time. Generally these are books or articles that I am not willing to pay for, so I would only read them as free ebooks anyway. I could imagine someday paying a small price for a newspaper subscription on the Kindle, if I was taking public transportation every day; I would never pay again for a hardcopy newspaper subscription.
I know plenty of literature and newspaper fans who would be aghast. However, every time I walk into a Barnes & Noble, all I can think is, “What a waste of paper!” There is so much printed material that is worthless. I can’t give a critical assessment of how much; all I can say is that a lot of it doesn’t need to be on a long-lasting medium, and I’m not going to mourn a contraction of the newspaper, magazine, or book publishing industry that results in fewer hardcopy products. I may regret that point of view someday when I want to look something up and the digital archive is corrupted, but right now I’d say that society will not suffer if the bottom 25% of the market disappears permanently from the paper format.