Friday, January 31, 2014

When is a book not a book?

A library that recently opened in Bexar County, Texas contains only electronic books. This is another way of saying that this library has no books.

A book is something shaped like a square, or sometimes a rectangle, or . . . well, you get the picture. It has a cloth or cardboard cover and has pages made of paper. That, my friends (and enemies, if any happen to be reading this), is a book. A book is something you can hold in your hands. The words printed on the pages of a book are called text.

Now, you can put the text on an electronic device or a computer screen, but what you’re reading is in no way a book. You can also see plenty of images on a computer screen and even your phone, but you are in error if you call them photographs. They are pictures, but a photograph is made of paper and was printed from a 35mm negative. There is still such a thing as a movie, but in most cases the movie you’re watching can no longer be called a “film.” A movie made with digital technology is not a “film,” but . . . well, I don’t really know what the hell it is. As for music, music is still music, but records are pretty much done for. The vinyl LP in its cardboard cover might as well be a tombstone.

If this trend continues, as I’m sure it will, what will become of collectors? Will a first edition e-book one day be selling at Ebay or put up for bidding at Christie’s or Heritage Auctions? Is anyone ever going to collect music downloaded from iTunes?

I mean, I’m just saying.

Brian W. Fairbanks