I believe that the dichotomy between electronic and traditional books
is merely another example of a general trend: there is a war between
quality and convenience going on in our civilization. Recorded music
is another example. I do like the convenience of being able to carry
around and listen to the better part of my music collection on a
device that fits into my breast pocket. But the loss of quality! Not
only does MP3 sound worse than the first record player I owned in
1965, no, they find a myriad of other ways to make my listening
experience crappy. When I listen to Schubert's “Death and the Maiden,”
for example, the pauses between the movements are almost
non-existent. If, on the other hand, two movements are actually meant
to be connected, as in Mendelssohn's violin concerto, I can be
guaranteed that they have been brutally torn apart. And don't get me
started on all the misspellings and other mistakes in the labeling of
the music that appears on my iPod.
Convenience vs. quality, what does that remind us of? Is it a new phenomenon? Of course not. It is the essence of the history of industrialization, omnipresent wherever we look. It is Amish furniture vs. a dining set bought at WalMart, and, of course, more than anything else, it is a meal at a good restaurant vs. fastfood. The Kindle and the iPod are the Big Mac and the Whopper of books and music. So the big question is this: in the long run, will the Kindle kill real books, and will MP3 be my only option for listening to music? Of course not. Look at fast food. All my life I have been listening to people lamenting that fast food was going to be the end of the culinary experience. Starbucks was going to kill the independent coffeehouse. But that didn't happen. What happened was that the market got bigger, and there is now more variety than ever before. I believe that the struggle between Luddites and advocates of technological progress is an artificial one. What it is really all about is variety, and ultimately, choice.