After all, behind all of our long, logical--not to mention hilarious
--lists of reasons why the ordinary book is still superior to the newfangled electronic one is, I would argue, fear
. Fear not of the ebook in principle, of course, or even of the exigency of reading text on a screen (which you're presumably doing right now). Rather, what terrifies ardent readers and book lovers like us is the possibility, however remote, that it will one day totally replace that category of material object that we traditionally call "book."
For, if this were to happen, we would have to change ourselves. It is a conceit to believe that the self and the object are mutually impermeable; in fact, objects cause the body and the mind to change in fundamental ways. Remember learning how to ride a bike or how to type? Imagine the trauma and dislocation you would feel if, tomorrow, all QWERTY keyboards were reformatted into a different arrangement of letters. We would be suddenly forced to learn a new system, and it would feel like a violation of our person.
And thus it is with the ebook. All of that subconscious, learned knowledge that accompanies the act of reading (how to hold a book open, how to turn a page, how to flip back and forth among chapters, how to mark passages or write in the margins, etc.) would no longer be directly applicable to an ebook. The ebook makes us feel unmoored from the known, bodily experience of reading a book, and that insecurity makes us profoundly fearful.
Granted, I do not think we'll be saying goodbye to our friend the book anytime soon. Old and new technologies exist simultaneously. We have print AND radio AND television AND Internet AND telephone AND cellphone all at the same time. Who would have thought forty years ago that email and IM would become common forms of interpersonal communication? It is quite possible that the ebook form will soon enter whole-hog into our collective consciousness...but this does not spell automatic death for the humble book. Perhaps someday it will go the way of the Sumerian clay tablet, but not today. Or the next day, either.
So relax. No need to be scared. ^_~