Prompted by buying a second hand book that will have to be transported from the USA to reach me, taking maybe several weeks, and another instance of a conversation with my anti e-book friend, I thought I would explore the attraction of owning physical books (p-books as I shall call them for brevity) alongside alternative views.
My friend spoke of how impressive a study full of p-books looks. It does, but the association of having shelves of p-books with being cultured, refined, educated, clever, was first made in a time when there were no e-books.The erudite of the future won't be identifiable by their shelves of p-books. If they want to display their eclat they will have to somehow graphically represent what texts are on their e-book reader. The fact that a person has books doesn't mean they have read all or part of any of them. In fact we can safely say that everyone has books that they intend to read all of but have not. With e-books, of course, this is less of an issue, as they take up so little space.
The point of owning books on a more practical level was that you wanted them to hand. Exhortations to borrow them from the library were pointless when you wanted 24-7 access to the information. This has obviously diminished with the www where you can look "anything" up at any time. You can borrow an e-book from the library. You will have access to it for a limited time (like a p-book from the library), but I don't know if there's a limit on the number of copies available. It's not a technical limit, but the author's income stream will disappear if the e-book can be borrowed by everybody at any time, rendering "owning" it fairly pointless.
I'm sure you can see the train of thought into an RBE here. In the current system, the author of a book has to withold its text from you because he has to eat, meaning he must sell his labour, but you must also sell your labour to get money to buy the book. The logical thing to do is to share the text oif the book as widely as possible (step forward e-book) whilst ensuring that everyone is adequately nutrified as a birthright and not because they coerced to sell their labour.
This is 'structural violence' work or die - it's that simple. Would people still work if not threatened with this structural violence? Well there's only one way to find out for certain, though evidence from volunteering and charitable donations suggests people do want to help each other