Visiting friends' homes in the past I used to enjoy seeing their record collections. Most people were only too pleased to show off their collection and my musical education was developed by thumbing through piles of records and asking to hear the ones that caught my attention. Seeing other people's extensive collections inspired my consumer instrincts and my own collection was inspired by several friends. Comparing musical taste was a great way of getting to know someone.
Today the music collection is invisible. No groaning shelves packed full of records, just files on an iPod or a playlist on Spotify. Today's music is totally portable, extremely convenient and completely unobtrusive. However it has lost its ceremonial value. It took an effort to take the record out of its sleeve, put it on the turntable and start the player. As a result you sat and listened to the record and did nothing else, often in company. We really listened. Today I listen to music every day but nearly always while doing something else.
The same process is starting to happen with books. Soon our book collections will disappear online and our homes will not show evidence of our reading habits. Noone will see how much you read or what your interests are. Children growing up in homes with lots of books see that reading is important and will generally follow in their parents' footsteps. If they can't see evidence of their parents' reading will they be equally keen to read? A parent sitting with an iPad could be reading Yeats or playing Farmville; you can't tell from afar.
I love the digital revolution but can't help wondering where it is leading. We must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.