We have a small collection of books in Josephine's room, and I’ve been trying to get into the routine of reading a few pages to her every night before bed. At just eight months old, she doesn’t have the attention span to sit through all of even a Sandra Boynton book, and she’s more often interested in trying to gnaw on the books than look at the pictures. Thank goodness the various board books we have were specifically designed for just such abuse, and Josie delights in trying to eat them. I know she also enjoys the warmth of my presence and the sound of my voice, so as we continue with the routine of reading before bed she’ll start to listen to the tales rather than try to ingest them.

Last night I grabbed at random a book from Josie’s bookshelf. I was surprised to see that it was My Go to Bed Book. It’s an old, tattered book with the cover just barely hanging on. On the inside front cover is written “To Scott, from Mommy and Daddy - Christmas 1976”.

The book I read to my daughter last night was the very same book my parents had read to me.

As I read the words, a part of my mind wandered off to ponder the relative value of physical books and e-books. I don’t think there’s any way an e-book released today would be readable three decades from now. One need only consider the examples of floppy disks or Zip disks to understand the relative impermanence of any specific piece of storage technology. Do we seriously think that today’s Kindles and Nooks will work even ten years from now? And that’s just the physical reader, and doesn’t deal at all with the electronic format of e-books which will no doubt continue to evolve. Have you tried to open a WordPerfect document, lately?

I’m all for technological advancements, but I also think there’s something very important about the legacy of physical objects. There’s not the same sentimental value to an e-book as there is with a physical book. If the Go to Bed book avoids my daughter’s teeth there’s the very real possibility that she can read it to her kids, and share with them the fact that I had read it to her, and my parents had read it to me.

Would it mean anything to my grandkids to know that the antique Amazon Kindle on which they might read an e-book was the same once-shiny-and-new Amazon Kindle on which I read the same e-book?

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