The faster we speed into the transparent, socialized world of e-books and digital readers, and the more brick and mortar bookstores that bite the dust, the more precious and rare become the books we leave behind, and the libraries that keep them.
Not just illuminated manuscripts, or books rolled out centuries ago from Gutenberg technology, but contemporary books printed in our lifetime have transcended from primary medium to objects. Like rosaries displayed or worn as art, even ordinary books will be desirable as time goes by for their nostalgia, for the way that they meld our interior imagination with our sensuality: the touch, texture, smell, visual impact of covers, end papers, paper, ink, typography, mingled with the fingered past of old possessions.
The readers I connect with most are not anti-technology, in fact you are curious about new ways of experiencing writers and their imagined worlds. But you also are somewhat romantic about printed books, especially old books.
I don’t think one medium will obliterate the other, just as several channels for watching movies co-exist today. I believe through new ways of sustainable materials there will be a place for e-readers, downloads, and the bound book. Except the bound book will be more valued because of a personal meaning of that work and author to an individual rather than as a simple medium: more of a companion that’s been elevated from the thousands of e-books you have to that one story or work that resonates with your personal journey: a talisman that can be thrown into a backpack, annotated in your unique handwriting, treasured on the shelf, and which will even survive dead batteries, device crashes, and vendor glitches.