我不信;我不敢想像 – eBooks

I often read 董橋’s articles for fun and inspirations. The following is an excerpt from his recent article. As someone who recently downloaded a few free eBooks from project Gutenberg to try to read on my iPad, I want to discuss what I think and feel after the excerpt.

An excerpt from 董橋:書香 – 大陸版《董橋文存》總序 – 2010年09月19日

“都說電子書快代替紙本書了,我不信。胡適之對張愛玲說:「你要看書可以到哥倫比亞圖書館去,那兒書很多。」用不著真去都聞得到書香了:我不敢想像胡先生說「你要看書可以按電腦,那裡頭書很多」!那是胡先生穿長袍跟不穿長袍的分別。我在台北見到的胡先生是穿著長袍的胡先生,輕鬆,瀟灑,長袖子一揮幾乎看得到他手上捲著一冊線裝書臨風低吟的神情,那時候他是中央研究院院長:一身西裝當上駐美大使那幾年胡先生多委屈,多倒霉。我情願一頁一頁讀完一千部紙本書也不情願指揮滑鼠滑來滑去瀏覽一萬本電子資料。熒屏上掃出一頁頁電子書我也試過,冷冰冰沒有紙感沒有紙香沒有紙聲,掃得出大學問掃不出小情趣,感覺彷彿跟鑲在鏡框裡的鞏俐彩照親吻。舊派人應該做些舊派事才合適。廣西師範大學出版社要在大陸重編重印我近十五年裡的文集,香港牛津大學出版社居間商議,海外傳統紙本書整理成國內一套傳統紙本書,我想試試。五十年前我在台南一位老先生家裡看到牆上掛的一幅對聯:「雨久藏書蠹,風高老屋斜」,句子好,字也好:紙本書即便藏著蠹魚也甘心,也詩意。都說老頭子都倔,電子狂風都吹斜了我的老房子了,書香不書香挑起的事端我倔到底。”

I’ve downloaded a few free classic eBooks from project Gutenberg onto my iPad. What I haven’t done is finish or read a complete eBook on it. Part of me shares 董橋先生’s sentiment. I don’t know if I will ever like eBooks as much as real “physical” books that I can hold in my hands, flip and markup.

What I am different from 董先生 is that I can see eBooks one day replacing paper-books and becoming the dominant medium for people of new and even older generations to consume books. And I can imagine “胡適 of the future” using eBooks to expand his/her readership from one corner of the earth to another. Or “胡適 of the future” self-publishing his/her New York Times best sells via print-on-demand technologies.

With no disrespect to 董先生, titans of the older generations are usually not the best predictors of what will be possible in the future.

The soon to be 100 years old Ronald Coase once said in a lecture,

“… new ideas are most likely to come from the young who are also the group who are most likely to recognize the significance of those ideas.”

Here is the lecture (special note starting from the 7:20 point)

Sept 24 update: Here is an insightful video of Stephen King on e-books.

One Response to 我不信;我不敢想像 – eBooks

  1. hevangel says:

    I don’t eBook can replace real book, it is hard to beat the form factor and cost advantage of paper book, it is easier to by pass our senses all together and communicate to the brain.

    It will virtual reality that replace reality so a virtual book in a virtual reality that feel exactly like a real book to our brain will replace a real book.

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