Initially, technological and reference works, such as Roget's Thesaurus and Bartlett's Quotations were installed in Word Processing programs to aid students, researchers and writers, but the publishing industry doubted if it could convince the public to read literature on the computer. Random House met with the chairman of Apple Computers and announced that the famous book series, "Modern Library", would be published in electronic form, including such classics as Moby Dick and David Copperfield. The books would be offered on the portable Apple PowerBook, a computer no larger or heavier than the average dictionary. According to Nora Rawlinson, then Editor in Chief of "Publishers Weekly", It's the first thing I've seen that I could curl up in bed with."
The pages of the original electronic books turned with the pressing of a button, the print could be enlarged for easier reading, and the computer book read in the dark without disturbing a sleeping spouse. The portable PowerBook was run on batteries recharged every three hours, So if one happenned to be at the climax of an Agatha Christie mystery and the batteries failed, the reader would come to know, first hand, the power of the computer.
The trouble with computers (just to list one) is that they are difficult on the eyes, and staring at the screen for hours, no matter how advanced or clear, can cause headaches, nausea, eyestrain, and nervousness. The safety of long-term viewing has yet to be proven, but short-term studies have pinpointed certain health problems, including the possibility of contracting cancer and is considered to be potentially hazardous to pregnant women.
Still, electronic books have their place, becoming a big hit with American children, who already receive over 50% of stimuli from video screens, deriving questionable gain. Children and adults who hate to read but love video games are drawn to electronic books, which feature pictures and sound effects. This is not the best way to stimulate a love of reading in children, because it stifles the their innate creativity but for some reluctant readers it is better than not reading at all.
Advocates of this exciting technology predict that electronic books, both literary and reference, will soon replace traditional books completely. Those who love to read can carry their slim electronic readers to the pool or beaches,trains, planes and especially use them while waiting for appointments.
I love books and I respect computers, along with a little fear. Books, lifelong friends, have never let me down or disappointed me. My computer has browbeat me, manipulated me, changed my written text at will, shut down on me, lost umpteen pages of manuscript and even once ordered me, in bold print, to "TURN OFF THIS MACHINE AT ONCE"! Which, of course, I did.
Computers are "run" but books are fondled, caressed and enjoyed on much more than an intellectual level. Books are warm; computers are cold, relentless, unforgiving and, no matter who tells you otherwise, they can and do think independently.
True lovers of books will never willingly part with them in exchange for electronic screens. Books are treasured not only for their content, but also for the wonderful aroma of paper and ink; for the pleasant texture of a leather-bound hard-cover volume or the comfortable feeling of a worn, dog-eared paperback.
The thing that is most frightening is not the availability of electronic books, for they have a definite place in a modern technological society, but the dire prospect that they will, out of necessity, one day replace traditional books. This may be inevitable due to elevated publishing costs and more importantly the depletion of world forests. Even recycled paper cannot keep up with the demand for paper products. If it comes down to losing trees or losing books, the trees must take priority, for they promote life.
The new Kindle digital books and others like it are more user friendly than e-books. They are easier on the eyes, are the size of an average paperback book, and can hold thousands of books at once. If any electronic book replaces paper books, it would be this type of electronic book, and that’s scary in a way. It may have its niche but to replace tradditional books is reprehensible to me.
Therefore it would behoove book lovers everywhere to begin hoarding their supply of books and buying as many new ones as possible, so that on that terrible date when books become relics of the past, we will be able to cherish our lifelong friends and pass them on to future generations. The essence of what a book truly is must never be forgotten.