If you read a book with your laptop thrumming at the other side of the room, it can feel like trying to read with a heavy metal band shrieking in front of you. To read, you need to slow down. You need mental silence except for the words. That's getting harder to find.
No, don't misunderstand me. I adore the web, and they will have to wrench my Twitter feed from my cold dead hands. This isn't going to turn into an antedeluvian rant against the glories of our wired world. But there's a reason why that word -- 'wired' -- means both 'connected to the internet' and 'high, frantic, unable to concentrate.'
So in the age of the internet, physical paper books are a technology we need more, not less...
A book has a different relationship to time than a TV show or a Facebook update. It says that something was worth taking from the endless torrent of data and laying down on an object that will still look the same a hundred years from now. The French writer Jean-Phillipe De Tonnac says "the true function of books is to safeguard the things that forgetfulness constantly threatens to destroy." It's precisely because it is not immediate -- because it doesn't know what happened five minutes ago in Kazakhstan, or in Charlie Sheen's apartment -- that the book matters.
That's why we need books, and why I believe they will survive. Because most humans have a desire to engage in deep thought and deep concentration. Those muscles are necessary for deep feeling and deep engagement. Most humans don't just want mental snacks forever; they also want meals. The twenty hours it takes to read a book require a sustained concentration it's hard to get anywhere else. Sure, you can do that with a DVD boxset too -- but your relationship to TV will always ultimately be that of a passive spectator. With any book, you are the co-creator, imagining it as you go. As Kurt Vonnegut put it, literature is the only art form in which the audience plays the score.
I could quote the whole thing, but do take the time to read it. He makes some very good points. There's a reason I don't have a smartphone and Internet at home...