Digital Fantasies

America’s Newspaper of Record brings word that Amazon has opened its first bookstore, as in brick-and-mortar bookstore.

The opening of’s first brick-and-mortar store on Tuesday proves that software is not really “eating the world,” as venture capitalist Marc Andreessen put it in 2011.

In his widely noted Wall Street Journal column about predatory software, Andreessen wrote:

“Today, the world’s largest bookseller, Amazon, is a software company — its core capability is its amazing software engine for selling virtually everything online, no retail stores necessary. On top of that, while Borders was thrashing in the throes of impending bankruptcy, Amazon rearranged its Web site to promote its Kindle digital books over physical books for the first time. Now even the books themselves are software.”

Retail stores are still not strictly necessary, and yet Amazon now has one in Seattle. That’s because the book market has proved less one-dimensional than publishers and sellers feared in 2010 and 2011.

In September, The New York Times revealed that the Association of American Publishers had registered a 10 percent decrease in digital book sales in the first five months of the year and that the number of independent bookstores was actually growing.

The failure of the Great Pumpkin to rise from the pumpkin patch and sprinkle the children with free eBooks is hardly surprising. I used to go around and around with moonbat friends about this issue as they were all convinced that we would soon be reading everything from a magic tablet. Physical books were old and stuff so of course they serve no purpose.

As is always the case with Utopians and futurists, they naturally assume that because they cannot see the obstacles to their fantasies, those obstacles must not exist. Full steam ahead! In the case of books, the glorious future of eBooks faced the very real obstacle that they were not a very good replacement for real books. They are and remain, a solution in search of a problem.

Don’t get me wrong, I consume most writing off a screen. I read a book or two per month, sometimes more sometimes less. I read a ton on-line. It has been so long since I’ve held a newspaper I can no longer remember when. The other day, I was getting coffee and someone asked if they had a newspaper. To me, it sounded like he wanted to know where to tie up his horse.

The thing I was never able to explain to my moonbat friends with regards to eBooks is that books as we understand them, along with bookstores, publishers, writers, editors, layout men, illustrators etc., did not spring from nothing. They evolved over time to solve the problem of quickly and easily distributing content to as many people as possible in a way that profits the people involved in that process. It is not easily replaced.

Movable type was invented in 1040. The printing press was invented 400 years later. In other words, it took 20 generations for there to develop a need for the mass production of printed material and a solution to be developed. We have another 30 generations to get us to the paperback that you can take to the beach. The point being is there is a lot of trial and error in those bodice-rippers you wife reads.

Utopians never think of these things as they think that their inheritance dropped from the sky. They have no appreciation for what they see around them. All they know is the sleek looking iPad is cool and all the cool kids have them so let’s close down the bookstores and make everyone read eBooks. That’s an exaggeration, but that’s the level of thinking. The people betting on eBooks were betting that 50 generations of work could be replaced in a wave of the hand.

I say all this as someone who reads eBooks. I read physical books too, but I also read eBooks when convenient. I re-read Camp of the Saints the other day off my tablet. The book is terrible and I would not display it on my bookshelf so I saved the money and downloaded it. The thing is, I don’t read a lot of books that suck and I tend to make notes in the margins when I read so the physical book works better most of the time.

Further, if I leave a book on a plane or at the beach, no big deal. If the sun melts my tablet, that is a big deal. If I drop my tablet down the steps, that’s a big deal, while dropping a book off the roof costs me nothing. These are things the Progressive mind can never contemplate as they see no value in them, because they see no value in people. My preferences are immaterial to the material mind.

This blinkered reasoning is standard fare these days so I’m an outlier. The physical book was as good as it needed to be and mail order was fast enough and cheap enough. For something to replace this model it had to be different, offering things you could never get in a book like embedded video or multidimensional plot strictures for fiction where every reader get s a slightly different experience. Instead eBooks are just books that make your eyes bleed.

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25 Comments on "Digital Fantasies"

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I have a relative who is far more happy with ebooks than I am. I have read a few and, for reasons I cannot explain, find them hard to finish. Perhaps it is because I am too old fashioned and prefer the tactile pleasures of a book. Even a paperback offers me more than an electronic book does in terms of value and weight and appreciation of what went into its making. I also find, if there is something I haven’t grasped in an actual book, I find it easy to skip back a few pages in order to clarify… Read more »
“The people betting on eBooks were betting that 50 generations of work could be replaced in a wave of the hand.” Yes, the same “insights” that support that also support a man can be a woman, homosexuality is normal and to be promoted, gay marriage is real, one half of the population on public assistance is sustainable, national borders are irrelevant, race and gender are social constructs, all sex is rape, blacks are not responsible for their dilemma, etc.. Hundreds if not thousands of years of accumulated knowledge and custom waved away with the swipe of a hand in th… Read more »
Erich Schwarz
I think you’re (inadvertently) illustrating why things like eBooks do in fact end up taking over the world. Think about what you’ve actually written here: you used to read newspapers routinely; now you read the Web instead you used to never read anything on a screen; now you read tons eBooks didn’t exist, not so long ago; now you actually read them Really, the only issue you’ve got here is that eBooks “make your eyes bleed”, which basically tells me that you’re like me (and unlike healthy twenty-somethings) — you’ve got presbyopia. All of this electronic stuff gets harder when… Read more »
One of the most adament that I would “NEVER read a book on a tablet”, I broke my hip and was virtually bed-bound for over a month. Holding a book to read while in prone position is fatiguing; it is worse when your body is damaged. Sooooo I succumbed. Camp of the Saints was already on the tablet. A freebie that downloaded to Kindle as a “document”. Then I found some of the free ebook offerings via my public library. New books. Things to read for entertainment or information and then move on. A few books read as ebooks were… Read more »

But only if you catch your errors.

adamant 🙁

I wonder, though, if there is not a generational divide going on here. I like the e-reader, and I probably read most of my books that way. I do miss being able to flip back and forth, and at least for now I think picture books are better on paper. I plan to get Howie Carr’s crime books on print- mostly for the pictures. Your other point is solid- moonbats have no appreciation of the past; indeed I think the attitude of the average SJW toward the long ago is contempt- they are positive that we who live today are… Read more »
I’ve been screaming about this for years, and my screams get especially loud when I hear of some Education Reformer who wants to pack his classrooms with E-this and I-that and eliminate forever the slaughter of Gaia’s forests. (At no small cost either, I might add.) As the Zman points out, e-books are a pretty good delivery system for bodice rippers. But how does one learn algebra, or chemistry, w/o flipping back and forth and writing notes in the margins and decorating every other page with post-it notes? Maybe I’m just a slow learner, but in those courses where you… Read more »
Bill Jones

I’ve somehow acquired some 3,000 books.
We are shortly moving house.

E-books look like a fine thing right now.

Ebooks are useful for novels, where you start at the beginning and read straight through to the end, hand for travel because of weight and ease of getting another when you finish the current book. Non-fiction, not so much, as you want to go back and check, go to the index and look something up, see maps and pictures which are displayed too small in ebooks. Books that contain a lot of links are handy, but I send them to my computer instead of my reader, so I can use them easily. So basically it isn’t either-or, just pick the… Read more »
John the River
A subject near and dear to my heart. I just gave up on home delivery of The Wall Street Journal, again. The worst part of the experience was the dawning realization that the reason the WSJ didn’t give a damn if my paper was getting delivered or not was that (as far as they were concerned) as long as I could go online and read the digital edition their job was done. I literally could not get them to care about my missing issues (3 in a single week). That I liked to take the paper with me and pick… Read more »
As a librarian, I always thought, oh, give me a “real book”, I’m old school, but no, that’s not the way it turned out for me. I move from 3D books to digital with no problem. I love the feel of a book in my hands, the ability to examine it physically. But I also love the way the digital saves my page, and the ability to check the meaning at will of words I either have forgotten the meaning of, or (horrors!) never knew. I love that I can borrow digital copies of books at midnight, when the library… Read more »
Vic P

This subject is similar to the ongoing discussion of the ultimate demise of the cable industry and television networks. Hard cover, paperback, tablets, whatever. I own some of each and use them all. The convenience of a tablet is something I enjoy. The point is that all of these are just a method of delivery. The content is what matters. How you consume the content is just a matter of individual preference.


You’re all missing the main point. Books look great. There’s nothing nicer than a room with oak bookcases filled with books. The e-book will never takes its place.

Erich Schwarz
I have about 80 boxes of real-wood-pulp books, accumulated over the course of my life. They’re sitting in my basement because I made economically suboptimal choices in my early adult life, and thus did not take the opportunity to become a wealthy member of the overclass that people handed to my naive late-teenage self. So I don’t own even one mansion (let alone five, like Al Gore), I still work in a day job, and I don’t have the space, money, or leisure time to get all my boxes of books up on shelves the way that I ideally would… Read more »
“…and the reduction in price so trivial…” Bingo. See on why Amazon opening a single brick and mortar store does not herald the demise of ebooks. Her reasoning about the sales decline of ebooks has to do with Amazon conceding publishers the right to force pricing of ebooks. Amazon used to use its clout to force publishers to allow Amazon to set prices, and to negotiate hard deals with the same publishers. Amazon would negotiate an ebook cost to themselves of 20-30% of the hardback price and then take a 20 margin. The ebook price would be in the… Read more »