What if digital books came first?

Many people seem resistant to the idea of reading books on something other than paper. And that’s OK, but there’s a quick thought experiment to figure out just how much of this is “what we’re used to” and not “what’s best”.

Imagine if books on tablets (iPad, Kindle, whatever) had been invented first, and a salesperson was now trying to introduce a newfangled paper book.

Paper Book Salesperson: “You can read in the bath, and you can sell it when you’re done with it!”

Digital Book Fan: “Well, I don’t want to read in the bath or sell it when I’m done. And hang on, you mean it’s only one book, not all my books, so I can’t carry all my books with me all the time? And I need a lamp to read in bed? And I can’t change the font, or font size, or zoom in on it, and it’s not interactive at all? And I can’t get the definition of a word I don’t understand without another heavy book? And I’ll need to dedicate a large part of my house to storing these paper books, on some kind of shelves, which will be a total pain when I move house? And I won’t be able to buy these books after a few years if they’re not popular, because they’ll run out of copies? And colour books will cost a lot more to print than black and white? And what about the environmental impact of printing and shipping all these paper books around?”

Paper books wouldn’t have a chance. It’s all about nostalgia and inertia.