Everywhere I go, I see people reading books on Kindle, on iPads, on Nooks.  And I'm jealous.  I'd like to buy a book reader, but Isaac Asimov won't let me.

Dr Asimov is telling me to forget book readers -- I need to get the most audacious multi-media device in existence. Salivate over this:

"A cassette as ordinarily viewed makes sound and casts light. That is its purpose, of course, but must sound and light intrude on others who are not involved or interested? The ideal cassette would be visible and audible only to the person using it... We could imagine a cassette that is always in perfect adjustment, that starts automatically when you look at it; that stops automatically when you cease to look at it; that can play forwards or backwards, quickly or slowly, by skips or repetitions, entirely at your pleasure."

Hey, not bad.  Dr Asimov continues:


"...Surely that's the ultimate dream device -- a cassette that may deal with any of an infinite number of subjects, fictional or non-fictional, that is self-contained, portable, non-energy consuming, perfectly private and largely under the control of the will...

"Must this remain only a dream? Can we expect to have such a cassette some day? We not only have it now, we have had it for many centuries. The ideal I have described is the printed word, the book, the object you now hold -- light, private, and manipulable at will."

So it's thought-controlled too?  I guess it was just a matter of time.

"...Does it seem to you that the book, unlike the cassette I have been describing, does not produce sound and images? It certainly does...You cannot read without hearing words in you mind and seeing images to which they give rise.

"In fact, they are your sounds and images, not those invented for you by others, and are therefore better...The printed word presents minimum information, however. Everything but that minimum must be provided by the reader -- the intonation of words, the expressions on faces, the actions, the scenery, the background, must all be drawn out of that long line of black-on-white symbols."

Thank you, Doctor.

It's true that ebook readers deliver the words, but they need to download, so there must be internet access.  Ebook readers need batteries. Sometimes they don't work. And eventually you'll have to discard them. Can you say the same about the favorite books resting on your shelves?


Can you look at a stack of eBooks, lined up on your shelf, and feel them trigger your memory?  When I look at my shelves of books, their spines and artwork are like a photo album of old friends.  I can tell you where I found these books, when, what my life was like.


I can hold them in my hands and the experience is different.  Recently, WIRED (http://bit.ly/3KWAaD) did a story about how books smell.  Not to mention the feel of the binding and paper, the way light reflects off the pages.  Reading an actual book, as opposed to a virtual book, engages more of your senses.  And research shows that, the more senses you engage in the act of learning, the more you will learn.  You'll also retain more of what you read.


I'm no Luddite.  I love technology, and shooting high definition video.  In my job I get to play with all kinds of cool toys, like the RED camera and the Nanoflash recorder.  So I'm comfortable with new technology.


And what would I do with all my lovely books, once I did go out and buy a Kindle or Nook or whatever?  Toss them? Give them away?


It's like buying a CD's, then looking at your stacks of LP's.  I know some many people who've embraced digital audio (which I love) and given away all their records (they must be crazy).


So for now, at least, I'll let other folks read their books on a screen.  How about you?



 Thomas Kaufman is an Emmy-winning director/cameraman who also writes mysteries.  His first book, DRINK THE TEA, won the PWA/St Martin's Press Competition for Best First Novel.  His second book, STEAL THE SHOW, comes out this July.  His blog tour

continues with Spinetingler Magazine, Lesa's Book Critiques, and 7Criminal Minds.

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