I realized this a few months back when I was relocating from the United States to India for an uncertain length of time. Three boxfuls of books had piled up during a little over four years. Not even half of them had been read. The Hamlet- ian question was whether I should ship them back to India or leave them in the US. Given my indecisiveness regarding where in the world I want to be, I decided to leave them with a friend in the US. It was in those moments between packing and then driving them down to his place that sealed my decision as far as switching to an ereader was concerned. For the very least, I wouldn’t have to lug around these paper versions. For another, I would have access to my books where ever I was. A look at the Sony reader at the local bookstore convinced me of the inevitable, though at $350, the price was still a deterrent.
Since then the prices for the ebook readers have declined. Kindle has already reduced it from $350 to $299 in the face of competition from the Sony reader. The cost of an ebook- generally around $10, is also less than the paper version. The availability of over 700, 000 out of copyright books on the Sony reader is an added bonus. Of course, there will be a downside in that one can no longer purchase used books. I have bought good quality used books for as low as 1 cent. With a 3.99 dollar shipping charge, they have cost me about $4, or rupees 200, by all means an excellent price.
Besides the inability to buy used books, one cannot loan the ebooks either. In other words, while ebooks make a person more free, they would also reduce the social aspect of borrowing and lending books, or re- selling them. Unless, of course, workarounds are found, for example, some kind of a password enabled ‘loan’ for a certain number of days, that would enable ‘borrowing’ e-books.
Nevertheless, I hope that it would be always possible to buy the print edition of a book that one would really like to sniff and cuddle.