The Future Has Arrived – Never Confuse the Medium with the Content

By: Kyle Miller

NWilliam Shakespeare once wrote, “A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.” Which is why I am sometimes befuddled by what appear to me as “hardcopy snobs.”

A hardcopy snob is someone who eschews all things digital in favor of the older content distribution methods of previous centuries. This is, of course, nothing new. It became a frequent joke in sci-fi entertainment of the 60’s to lambast what was imagined would be the new-fangled way of doing things in the future (“Food pills? I want a steak!” “What is it? It’s a book! You read it!”)

With the increasingly wide-spread use of tablets and e-readers, we are presented with a lot more to read in digital format. Some are confusing this with the downfall of literacy. In my humble opinion, nothing could be further from the truth.

Because the content, the very words we are reading, remains the same. The only thing that has changed is that it is a lot easier to get our hands (so to speak) on that content.

You no longer have to go to a “brick and mortar” store to get a book. You can order it online and download it in the blink of an eye. The same is true for libraries – many local and regional libraries have digital collections that can be leant out to patrons. And you don’t have to worry about late fees, since the books return themselves after two weeks.

Every location is different, but it’s in your best interest to explore what is available to you where you live. For instance, anyone who lives, works or goes to school in Massachusetts can apply for a Boston Public Library card online and immediately gain access to their library of digital books.

Using a virtual public library is a lot like using your regular one – with the major difference being that it is available 24/7. The second you finish a book, you can go online and select another one. Browsing is pretty much the same – you can “peruse the shelves” by limiting your search to only titles that are currently available for checking out. Or you can search for a specific title or author and put your name on a waiting list so that you are notified as soon as it is available.

Virtual books do not take up shelf space, are not subject to mildew or mold, do not use trees and do not require trucks to move them from one location to another. Any book published in the last 15 years is already in digital format, since that is the preferred method of laying them out for printing. The only thing preventing a new book from being released in digital format is whether or not the publisher wishes to do so.

The bottom line is that books, in whatever form you happen to receive them, are meant to be read. So start reading!

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