It’s very possible. Downloading a textbook onto an E-reader would likely be much, much cheaper than buying the book itself. The average college student’s yearly expenses on textbooks would be significantly reduced, making it a very desirable switch in the academic world. Furthermore, it would eliminate the burden of carrying a number of heavy books from class to class. However, it would take an initial investment in what is new and so relatively expensive technology. For this reason, I don’t forsee it happening immediately. When it’s been around for a while, and new models start to come out, and more companies start making them, creating competition within the market for lower prices, then the option will be more affordable, and more popular. Think of the proliferation of cheaper MP3 players in the years after the advent of the Ipod. At first, not everyone could afford an Ipod, but after a while, a good majority of people probably had some sort of MP3 playing device. This didn’t squash the existence of records or CDs, though; in fact the popularity of records are on the rise again, perhaps as backlash to the MP3, as sound quality can be low on these files, and they are easy to pirate, making the enjoyment of music a selfish one from which the artist receives little benefit. Many people also enjoy the experience of listening to an entire album, and think of the compilation of an album, the arrangement of songs and the cover design, etc., as an inherent work of art. Similarly, I don’t think that the E-readers will squash the existence of paper bound books. There are a lot of people in the literary world resisting these devices as well, in the spirit of the book, that is, the vessel which carries the text, being an inherent work of art: cover design, font / typeface, binding, etc., are all love-labours that go into the creation of a printed book.
In short: textbooks? Maybe. Very possible. But books in general? No. I think not.
The reading of books is an ancient tradition, texts being literally sacred to some people. For this reason, I think books will remain in circulation, if for no other reason than their historical and sentimental value.
However, I like the e-reader innovation. I think it’s a great idea, and an obvious one for a society that is so in-tune with techonological advance. And of course, it cuts down on the use of paper.
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