Amazon is starting to push Kindle in a major way. Kindle is a hand-held, wireless device that can download an entire book - an entire library of books - and save the cost of having the paper book shipped to you.
There are lots of ways this concept could be attractive. Imagine how many books you could carry with you wherever you travel, without having to haul around heavy and bulky parcels and bags. Imagine how much space and expense you could save by not having to shelve or store all the books you have read - even just the ones you want to keep in hope of reading them again. I, personally, could dispose of about 3/5 of the weight and volume of my personal property - then move into a smaller, cheaper apartment, and have 90% less strenuous packing and unpacking to do. There are lots of bells and whistles on it, and as the service grows to cover more titles, I imagine that you and I and the guy down the street will find Kindle increasingly irresistable.
And that worries me. Because, you see, I have read Fahrenheit 451. I would hate to join this movement only to find out, years down the line, that it was a step toward phasing out paper books. I would miss the feel of a book in my hands, the sense of anticipation that only page turns can provide, the marks and stains and smells that make old favorite books a witness to your history and the history of its owners before you. And being a pessimistic, suspicious sort, I worry that Kindle and its like will make it harder to get the paper kind - especially out-of-print titles. As services like Kindle spread and replace paper books, the danger also grows that classic works will be altered, or made to disappear altogether; and that new books will be vetted to standards that not all of us consider important.
There is no guarantee these things won't happen. Even if someone claimed to make such a guarantee, I wouldn't believe them - any more than I believe the ludicrous radio spot about a certain drug being "completely safe" with "no side effects." It is irresponsible to make such a claim. I don't care whether the next police state is run by Bible-thumping evangelicals or by secular ideologues: I wouldn't give up the chance of stumbling across an obscure but amazing book. And if Kindle doesn't seem sinister, it will certainly be no help in finding obscure books. It will, rather, be like a Wal-Mart for the brain: offering not what you want to read, but the convenience reading what they sell. In time you will learn to want what they sell. "And the last state was worse than the first."