Books are the oldest of the old media. So for a number of years, people have been dreaming of ways to update books for the Digital Age, from special portable displays to e-ink. But there’s something simple about books that’s hard to top — the words printed on paper, the small form factor, the ease of borrowing and reselling them. Now there are many book digitization projects such as Google Book Search, the idea being to store all written knowledge into a vast searchable database. Kevin Kelly describes the push toward the “universal library” in a long piece in the New York Times.

Blogger and new media pundit Jeff Jarvis reacts to that piece with a laundry list of problems with books: “They are expensive to produce. They depend on scarce shelf space. They depend on blockbuster economics. They can’t afford to serve the real mass of niches. They are subject to gatekeepers’ whims. They aren’t searchable. They aren’t linkable. They have no metadata. They carry no conversation. They are thrown out when there’s no space for them anymore.”

What do you think? Do books need to be reinvented in some digital way or are they fine as they are? What kind of digital reader would you like to see? Is the universal library within reach, and will it help authors or harm them? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and I’ll include the best ones in next week’s Your Take Roundup.

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