וְיֹתֵר מֵהֵמָּה, בְּנִי הִזָּהֵר: עֲשׂוֹת סְפָרִים הַרְבֵּה אֵין קֵץ, וְלַהַג הַרְבֵּה יְגִעַת בָּשָׂר.1
The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no measure or limit to this fever for writing; every one must be an author; some out of vanity, to acquire celebrity and raise up a name; others for the sake of lucre and gain. The Bible is now buried under so many commentaries, that the text is nothing regarded. I could wish all my books were buried nine ells deep in the ground, by reason of the ill example they will give, every one seeking to imitate me in writing many books, with the hope of procuring fame. But Christ died not to favour our ambition and vain-glory, but that his name might be glorified.
The aggregation of large libraries tends to divert men’s thoughts from the one great book, the Bible, which ought, day and night, to be in every one’s hand. My object, my hope, in translating the Scriptures, was to check the so prevalent production of new works, and so to direct men’s study and thoughts more closely to the divine Word. Never will the writings of mortal man in any respect equal the sentences inspired by God. We must yield the place of honour to the prophets and the apostles, keeping ourselves prostrate at their feet as we listen to their teaching. I would not have those who read my books, in these stormy times, devote one moment to them which they would otherwise have consecrated to the Bible.2
Edgar Allan Poe
The enormous multiplication of books in every branch of knowledge, is one of the greatest evils of this age; since it presents one of the most serious obstacles to the acquisition of correct information, by throwing in the reader’s way piles of lumber, in which he must painfully grope for the scraps of useful matter, peradventure interspersed.3
The Luther and Poe quotes are mentioned in Clay Shirky’s optimistic Does the Internet Make You Smarter? (and in many other places, too, such as David Rothman’s The New Yorker is as wrong about e-libraries as Martin Luther apparently was about paper books); see Nicholas Carr’s Does the Internet Make You Dumber? for a more pessimistic view. See also Carr’s famous earlier essay Is Google Making Us Stupid?, his follow-up “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”: sources and notes, and the lengthy and detailed Wikipedia article Is Google Making Us Stupid?.4