E-readers winning over doubters

For as long as I can remember, I've loved books -- holding, selecting books, owning, discussing, giving and sharing books. From board books for toddlers to word-heavy tomes for scholars, books and book-filled baskets accessorize my home.

So it was with some surprise that I found myself at book club listening with piqued interest to the glowing conversations among my friends about their e-readers. When I got one of them alone, I asked some hard questions, interrogative style, seeking the truth only the truth.

"Do you really like it?" I asked.

"No," she responded quickly. Aha, I thought congratulating myself. Now the truth comes out. "I love it," she finished.

Crestfallen, I probed deeper. "Do you feel as if you're really reading?'

"Oh, absolutely," she said without hesitation.

These were not the answers I was expecting so, I changed my line of questioning. "It really can't be all that easy to use," I insisted.

"It is easy to use. No kidding."

"No tricky computer stuff?" I asked with narrowed eyes continuing my no-nonsense tactics.

Raising her right hand as if taking an oath, she said, "No tricky computer stuff. Honest."

One by one my friends fell like dominos to the spell of e-books. I resolved to stay loyal to real books (I feel sorry for Guttenberg) but I began to wonder what reading would look like in the future. Would the mega book stores close? Would children's rooms be void of brightly printed books that capture their imaginations and entice them to read? Would schools organize field trips to no-longer-used libraries now sold to museums?

I imagined a conversation with my granddaughter.

"Grandmama, did you ever go to a library?"

"Of course, I did. There was a big one in our town."

"Wow," she would say her eyes wide in astonishment. "You must be really old."

"Did you get tired," she would ask "you know, turning the pages?"

My musings next lead me to wonder what readers' T-shirts in the future world of e-books would say. I suppose "As soon as I finish this chapter" and "A girl's gotta read" would still apply. But the popular "So many books, so little time" would be lost to posterity. How can you show a reader perched on a stack of virtual e-books?

In the transition from traditional books to e-books, there is more to consider than T-shirts. Think about the impact on our troubled economy. For example, no longer will there be a need for book marks - an industry gone down the tubes in a flick of an e-page. Consider fancy bookmarks with needlepoint and cross stitching. How will these ladies demonstrate their talent?

Certainly, totes for books will no longer be needed -- another industry kaput. And of prime concern to me, how will one give a beautifully wrapped gift book to a friend?

Without books, there will be no need for book shelves. Can you imagine? Will shelves be relegated to mere bearers of bric-a-brac? Worse still, how will we show off our intellectualism? Who will know you just finished reading "War and Peace" and "The Fall of the Roman Empire" at the same time if you can't leave them conspicuously on the coffee table for all to see?

Most assuredly, e-books can't boost a child up in his chair or adjust table legs to matching height. And heaven help you should it be your fate to find your pampered pooch, hair standing on end, legs stiff in the air, eyes rolled back in his head, simply because he mistook your e-book for his favorite chew toy.

Clearly, I don't know how this will end, but I've pondered long enough. I've got reading to do. My book club meets tomorrow and my Kindle tells me I've only read 67 percent of the book!

Wanda Lane lives in Sun City Hilton Head.