Posted by: C.R. Mooney | December 31, 2009

Where is digital reading taking us?

Time changes, and with it, technology.  In recent history, however, it seems that technology progresses faster than time.

I remember my first cell phone barely fit in my pocket and could store 25 phone numbers.  It flipped open and had an expendable antenna.  It’s laughable now when you compare the technology of today’s hand held media centers: Basically a computer in the palm of your hand.

In order to enjoy music, I used to own records (for my younger audience, they are large black disks), which were replaced by cassette tapes, then CDs, and most recently by digital media files.  Instead of a shelf, most of my music collection now resides on a hard drive and various burned discs.

With all of these changes in other media, it seems the book is the last to follow suit.  After all, there are just some things that very slowly go the way of the dinosaurs, and there is reason for that.  Some things, I believe, are not meant to be fully replaced.

Though I love all the gadgetry (the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader Digital Book), one thing is sure to be lost, ownership of an actual book.  Are we ready for digital rights management (DRM) of our libraries?  And what will this lead to?

If a friend at work wants to borrow my latest Dan Brown novel, I simply hand it over a cubicle wall.  I definitely would not let them borrow a Kindle for a couple weeks. If I spill a drink on a book, yeah the pages will be a little off color, but it is still readable.  Spill coffee on a Sony Reader, and you’re out a few hundred dollars.

Other than the few aesthetic items, simply put, you no longer own your books. You are paying to borrow them for as long as the technology lasts, which we all know will only be a few years. Eventually you will be forced to buy them again for the next technology if you want to keep them in your collection.  Also, if I want to sell or give away my used books, I am free to do so through Amazon, used book stores, etc., but DRM does not allow you to do this.  Digital media is a one time deal, only to be used by the buyer for as long as the technology survives, or until the hard drive crashes.

I am not coming out against these wonderful advances.  I am only saying buyer and publishers beware.  In trying to get our bookshelves to fit in our pockets, let’s not forget the advantages of owning printed copies.

What are your thoughts?


  1. Loved this post! I agree with you completely, and don’t forget about the simple joy and nostalgia of reading a regular book. I use computers everyday: at work, home, even on my cell phone. Sometimes it is nice to be looking at something that doesn’t have a screen on it.

    Keep Smilin! 😀

  2. A very insightful post, I appreciate it immensely. And though I am a member of this younger generation tech addiction lol, I LOVE to read a book. Many times more satisfying for me than a screen.

  3. I don’t think paper books will disappear. They may be more expensive and fewer may be printed but people will still buy their favourite books in paper form for the reasons you just listed. I’m all for e-books and am looking forward to getting an e-reader but I have no intention of not buying physical books anymore. Maybe eventually things will switch to all digital but I don’t think anyone is ready for that to happen just yet.

  4. Never thought of it that way, but you make a very good point! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Thanks everyone for your comments! There are advantages to portable libraries, but there’s just something about sitting in your favorite chair, opening a new book, and flipping pages that never gets old.

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