I learn to speak English from a book-Manuel, Fawlty Towers
Books in digital form are online and easy enough to read-if you have the patience to sit and read them, which most of is don’t. The computer ebook has a few advantages over their real world counterparts. You can zoom in if you eyes are not that good. You can listen to a sterile computer voice read it for you. You can find a few hundred reviews written by people who seem to love or hate everything they read.
I have a few friends that want Amazon Kindles but still find the price tag a tad steep. Besides, even the Kindle isn’t quite as good as a real book. Back in the dark ages, the 1980s I think, Issac Asimov wrote a brilliant essay on the Perfect Portable Entertainment System. As best as I can recall, he rattled off all the features such a perfect portable system would need:
1. Portable and easy to use.
2. Non intrusive to those around the user.
3. The ability to stop the advancement of the story by having the user look away from it.
4. The ability to pick up the story again where it was left off by the user.
5. Low cost.
He was describing, of course, a book. Would Issac be impressed with iPods and portable DVD players? Sure, but would he consider them better than books? I doubt it.
There was a pretty good Outer Limits episode where everyone was wired to the net, except for a handful of people whose bodies rejected the implants. Everyone was literally a walking encyclopedia, so none of them ever learned anything. When the net went down, the only one who could read was the one who didn’t have an implant. We are heading for that world ourselves, where information is abundant and worthless, but knowledge is becoming scarcer and scarcer.
Like the subtle difference between the brain and the mind, these two ideas are not the same thing. Information is what you get from Google, Wikipedia, and CNN. Knowledge is what happens in your head when you learn something and it creates a change in your understanding of the world. Intelligence is yet another concept, which involves putting the knowledge you acquire to some use. The kind of raw intelligence measured by IQ tests is something else again, as anyone who has known someone with a high IQ and no common sense can attest.
I am a book lover and will likely be one for as long real books are still around. I like listening to books, but that is not the same as reading one either. No matter how good the audio book reader is, they can’t replace your own imagination.
Maybe I’m like a photographer that wants to keep using film or a music fan that wants more vinyl records and its just fighting the tide with a broom. But books have had a longer run than any other media, and I have hopes that they will be around for a good long while yet to come.