I love books. I love the elegance and wit of fine prose. I love a sound argument and evocative exposition. I love imaginative stories and insightful analysis.
I also love the texture of books, their smell, their weight, the sound of pages turning. I love cover art, even when it's terrible or bears no relation whatsoever to the content of the book.
I love my library. Really, I love any library; I love being surrounded by stacks of books. I feel safe in a library, which serves as both a haven from the real world and a gateway to other worlds - some better, some worse, all fascinating in their own ways.
Our collective experience of books is changing. Even my mom has an e-reader now, downloading books over the internet to read on a tablet of plastic and glass. But I'm not ready for digital books yet.
Generally, I embrace change and scientific progress. But so far, e-books leave me cold. I don't like their texture, and I don't like the fact that digital rights management (DRM) software prevents you from truly owning the books you buy. E-readers require power; what do you do if you're stuck somewhere for hours and you drain your batteries?
I'm sure I'll get an e-reader eventually, but I hope the e-books of the (near) future are a little more user friendly. If I were to design an e-book, I'd make it something like this:
The FlexBook will look and feel like an ordinary mass-market paperback, about 200 pages thick. The whole contraption will be made of yet-to-be-invented smart paper with all the texture of real paper but capable of displaying text, images, textures, video, etc. The smart paper will also absorb energy from the sun to keep it powered.
In the FlexBook's default state, the interior pages will appear blank, while the cover will sport touch controls for downloading books or sorting through the book's internal storage. Select a novel and your FlexBook's pages will fill with its text, while the covers and spine adorn themselves with the appropriate artwork. If your chosen book happens to be longer than 200 pages, no problem; the text will simply scroll by as you read, ensuring that the last page of your text displays on the last page of your FlexBook. No need for bookmarks; simply double-tap the page and it will change colour to indicate your place.
Of course, many readers devour several books at once. The FlexBook will always know which books are "active," listing them for you on the inside covers. Want to read a magazine, comic book or newspaper? Unfold the FlexBook to magazine, comic, broadsheet or tabloid size for an authentic reading experience.
When someone invents an e-reader of this quality and versatility, I'll buy it. Until then, I'll stick with my old-fashioned books.