Originally Posted by kennyc
I don't know that I agree, but just to play devils advocate what is it YOU think we are losing?
First, we lose the idea that we own a book. When you "buy" an eBook, you are technically purchasing a lease, which can be revoked at any time by the seller and/or publisher. If printed books go away, it would not be impossible to imagine a government that could make a book disappear from every ereading device overnight. Finding every printed copy of that same book would be a daunting task.
Second, we lose the privacy we had with a book. The stores that sell us the books are tracking our usage, they're tracking how long we linger on a page, they're tracking how frequently we read and for how long. What nefarious uses that information could be put to, I don't know. But again, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to come up with a scenario where a totalitarian government could use that data to identify "subversives."
Third, we lose the permanence of a book. Yes, books burn, become dog-eared, yellow, etc. But a book as a physical object engages more of the senses than an ebook does. There's the texture of the page, the smell of the book. Those senses can help up to go back and remember when we first read a passage. And the format is fixed, meaning that a firmware update that changes the font or margins can't change where on each page a sentence appears.
Fourth, we lose the sharing of books. Anyone who loves books knows how special it is to be handed a book with a recommendation. Now, we send them a link and they have to buy their own copy, because we're not allowed to pass on our DRM ebook files. Libraries can't hold used ebook sales as fundraisers, either.
We're losing the experience of the bookstore. You can't replace a store full of reading material with a web site. Wandering the aisles has often led me to finding books I would never have otherwise heard about. Yes, there are new technologies that make talking about books possible, and the web stores are getting ever better at suggesting stuff to us, but it all runs around our own interests - we won't wander past a section of history books on our way to the computer books, because the Internet doesn't work that way.
Finally, I think we lose the specialness of a printed book. eBooks are just another content delivery system, no different from a web page, a newspaper, or a magazine. While e-content has it's place, it is rarely as carefully edited as a physical book is. Because it is so hard to change, because it is so permanent, authors tend to exercise a bit more care before submitting their work. This isn't always the case, and print-on-demand and vanity presses are diluting it (yet another way technology is giving with one hand while it takes away with the other), but it still is generally true.
When television came into existence, the promises of the technology were great. We were going to be smarter than ever with all the educational possibilities this new technology offered. No one at the time saw television dividing families, taking them away from other pursuits, and ultimately leading to the degrading fare that populates the airwaves these days. And the educational value of television has proven to be a pie-in-the-sky fantasy, as television makes people dumber and dumber, regardless of the content.
I'm not saying eBooks will have the same impacts television did - it's not the same technology. But I am saying that technology never just gives, without taking something. And all too often, we jump headlong into the promise of the new and discover all too late what it is we lost. eBooks have some wonderful purposes and uses, and I've bought some and read even more (thanks to free ebooks and libraries.) I am not simply willing to jump up and down and say that, finally, we have discovered a technology that only makes our lives better.