You may remember that I'm a big fan of the Amazon Kindle. Noel had the bright idea a few days ago to request a Kindle for review, and sure enough, it came in the mail today, already loaded with Noel's Amazon account (all his recommendations were listed right there on the home page). I'm pretty sure I'll be getting one this fall, maybe in time to take with me on my conference trip to Aarhus, Denmark.
In a world where the end of fossil fuels is in sight, there's nothing that makes less sense that shipping information around the world in the form of physical objects. Sure, there will always be a need and a desire for beautiful books. But how many books are essentially information -- bits, easily represented by 0's and 1's and completely susceptible to being transmitted electronically rather than on trucks and planes? And I think it's a given that music and movies have outgrown the plastic discs on which we encode them in order to get them from place to place. Yes, we all remember when albums had nice big surfaces for cover art. But the market downsized those covers to CD size without blanching, and I think the fact that we don't really miss them proves that the packaging is quite incidental, and the music is the product. And that product is simply information, most efficiently delivered over the airwaves and not over the roads.
The desire to create, own, and proliferate physical objects that hold information still exists. We all love our books and our album collections. But can't we all recognize that preference as mostly nostalgia? Why should material resources be expended to deliver information, just because that's what we're all used to?