I'm a vintage technology kind of guy--I spend a lot of my time fiddling around with mechanical cameras and old analogue synthesizers (or, for that matter, pianos, guitars, and drums). I like things that are tactile--tools that feel a certain way when I use them, and which give me certain results that, at least in part, are determined by the technology used to create them.
I used to think I felt the same way about reading and writing--but my recent appreciation for the iPad, and general acceptance of the ebook, are suggesting to me that the same doesn't apply for my experience of literature. Why should this be?
The fact is, I had no trouble switching from writing on a note pad to writing on a typewriter to writing on a dedicated word processor to writing on a computer. Rhian and I are probably the last generation who will make this transition--our experience has spanned the entire history of writing technology, in just a handful of decades. And I think I'm a unique position to say that technology does not matter to writing the way it does to other forms of art.
Stories, I think, are not created with the hands, the way music and art are. They're created in the mind, and translated into print by whatever means are at hand. The tactile is important in photography, and even more (far more) in music--but in literature, it's little more than window dressing. We might be deeply invested in that window dressing (indeed, I still love pencils and note cards, and as I said in my iPad review, I will continue to adore the physical book), but in the long run it doesn't matter. Literature is an effort to connect two minds, the reader's and writer's, through language, the original tool, and the one that means the most to our shared humanity.
(And if this post sounds like something I've said before, honestly, it's just an excuse to share that seriously stupendous little YouTube clip. I believe the movie is the 1970 Merchant-Ivory picture Bombay Talkie, and the man and woman are Shashi Kapoor and Helen Jairag Richardson.)