A community resident and I were discussing the need for a new library. Or rather, in her case, she was saying why she doesn’t think there is such a need.

She said there will be fewer and fewer books in coming years. “People will read online. They already do. People will all own those little book machines like the Kindle. The prices are coming down and they’ll cost about $25 before long and anyone can afford them.”

Yes, I did point out that whether or not we keep putting more books on shelves and into lending circulation, there isn’t a good solution to the accessibility problem relating to the present library building.

But back to the alleged shrinking market for actual books, the kind made of paper. Amazon, which sells a lot of books, says sales of electronic books (e-books) have passed hardback book sales. Next  year they will pass softcover book sales. In 1912 they will exceed the combined sales of both kinds of books. I am not talking about sales of the devices, but of the books that can be read on the devices.

But it seems that many owners of electronic book readers and buyers of e-books still buy conventional books.

It also seems that many people with cell phones have dropped their landlines; others have not, but use both.

So I tend to think we will continue to need more space in our public library; and I think we will want to have regular books around.

Electronic book reading devices are proliferating and becoming more affordable. Even the e-book versions of published books are becoming more affordable. But most are not free—and we can use library books for nothing.

My conversation partner mentioned above asked me whether I have “one of the devices,” and whether one would work for me, given my visual limitations. I told her I have used two different e-book readers that belong to other people. I would love to own one.

I did download Kindle for PC, which is free. Obviously it is used on a computer. Kindle books can be downloaded and read on it. Most books published since 1923 must be purchased, and the usual price is $9.95. (Please Amazon, just say $10! We consumers don’t really think something is more affordable if that last dollar has a nickel shaved off.)

Kindle for PC and portable Kindles also can download and use any of thousands of free books, mostly classics, older works and textbooks.

But the portable e-book reading device I really lust for is the new Sony Reader, Touch edition, PRS-650. It can be ordered now for $229.99. (Please, Sony, just say $230. We consumers of such products can’t be induced, subliminally, to accept the one cent break as an inducement to buy what we would not have popped for without it. Truly!) It is said to be in stock at Sony; and the estimated ship date is—tomorrow.

Like other Sony readers, the new 650 is slim, has a metal case, has a 6-inch clear touch screen and an intuitive design.

Using the stylus or your finger, you tap or swipe to turn pages, set bookmarks, change the font, highlight and take notes.

The 650 can handle most common file formats, and EPUB/ACS4 and Adobe Digital Editions, and is copacetic with Mac and PC platforms and will play back common-format audio files that have not been copy-crippled.

Those public domain books on Google? The Sony PRS-650 can use them.

The display looks like paper, with conventional printing on it, which shows up well even in bright sunlight.

If you downloaded several thousand books (for me, they would have to be those free ones), your Reader Touch Edition would let you carry all of them around. If you want to lug 50,000, that will require use of additional memory cards.

You won’t need to carry a charger unless you are going to be on the go for at least two weeks—or so they claim. This baby, fully charged, can go for “up to” that long. (Really? Thirteen days, 11 hours, 59 minutes, then it goes black?)

Oh, yeah, there is a Kindle out there for $139.95, so I hear. ::sigh:: (How about charging only $139.90? Please, Amazon, knock off a whole dime!)

Are you using an e-book reader? Tell us about it.