Tim Waterstone’s anti-ebook statements at the Oxford Literary Festival seem to have attracted quite a bit of backlash, and one common thread to the lashes backlashing seems to be that this debate is so over. The whole Us vs. Them faceoff appears to be inducing a welcome sense of fatigue in many readers, and commentators. Typical of this is the response by author Nick Harkaway in The Guardian, entitled: “Paper vs digital reading is an exhausted debate.”

“There are fewer and fewer venues where digital technology has made no impact – and where there’s a digital device, there are ebooks, at least in potential,” argues Harkaway. “They need not be anyone’s primary method of consuming literature, but in some situations they will be the best one. Rather than circling the wagons as other media industries did (to no good outcome, it has to be acknowledged) publishers need to learn the more recent lessons from music and film.”

That said, he adds, “paper has a place in our hybrid future. Digital books are still painfully ugly and weirdly irritating to interact with.” And Harkaway then enumerates many of the disadvantages of ebooks – some of which will go away with further developments of the technology, others of which we’re stuck with. “Until the technology becomes as satisfying to the physical senses as the text is to the cognitive self, there’s still a need for shiny, gorgeous, satisfying books,” he asserts. “Paper vs digital will take care of itself. That being the case, we have bigger fish to fry.”

So Amazon is not going to go away. Nor are ebooks. Nor are print books. Deal with it. Now instead, what about the faceoff between creatives, scientists, and writers of all kinds, and Big Media? That one, I suspect, will run and run …


  1. Books that I use for learning are inconvenient as eBooks when I’m REALLY using that book. On the other hand it’s nice to have 100 reference books on my eDevices.

    I can’t imagine doing all my college coursework on eBooks though. I used too many post its and page markers and highlighters that I just can’t do as well…


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