What we can learn about books and their relationship to the ideas they supposedly contain has everything to do with the ways in which people interacted with them and the ways in which books conditioned those interactions. In short, another way of asking what we can learn from books might be to ask how we learn from books. At a moment when so many of us are moving ever more rapidly away from “hard copies” and embracing eBooks of all varieties, it is worth remembering that the material properties of books long set important conditions for their reading. Indeed, even the electronic simulacra to which we now find ourselves accustomed imitate physical acts like turning pages, inserting ribbons, and dog-earing corners. Virtual book collections take on the appearance of wooden shelves and follow organizational schemes derived from physical libraries. All such mimicry, of course, comes at great expense both to processing resources and programming hours. Yet it is deemed indispensable because reading remains a stubbornly material act.
– Sean Roberts, Printing a Mediterranean World: Florence, Constantinople, and the Renaissance of Geography, p. 175.