With the digital invasion that is happening in our lives, one aspect that we never imagined as kids to change namely the basic process of reading a book has undergone a complete makeover. It was always hardback or paperback. Hardback mostly if it was a gift or some gigantic book, paperback if we got it for ourselves. You opened the cover, read the prologue, checked the front and back cover once again and then got on with it.
Then E-books stormed in. Although electronic documents have been used since the 60’s at the latest, the change from a limited audience and limited purpose tool to an alternative to the conventional printing and publishing methods did not take place until the internet took a place in our daily lives. Today however, E-books are altering the way we read. If the general book reading public was reluctant to adopt the digitised version of print into their lives, the knowledge and experience of the potential advantages that E-books provide have made the people grow closer to this new way of reading.
Significant voices of resentment still exist in some pockets about the apparent change that has taken place in the world of printing. Let’s look at what exactly are the good and bad points or rather, let’s do an analysis. E-books Vs Printed Books.
Availability – Bookstores are everywhere. Internet is even more widely available in most of the civilized world. If you download your books on your E-book reader, then all that stops you from reading is the lack of electricity. Sitting at home and you hear about this great new book and your nearest bookstore is half an hour away? Bet you wouldn’t mind downloading it instantly and getting done with a hundred pages by the time it would have taken you to travel back and forth from the bookstore. Also, old books are not going to go ‘out of print’ digitally because they are never really printed. E-books win.
Storage Space – Store 10 books on your device (change the number according to your reading speed and frequency) and you are good to go for a few weeks to almost any corner of the planet. Would you be happily carrying so many books? Not really. E-books win.
Convenience – This is not as one sided as it may sound at first. You are standing inside a train, what would you prefer a reader or a book? Sprawled out on the couch on a rainy Sunday, what would you want to have in your hand? Are you ever going to prepare for your entrance examination with an E-book reader? No because you would be partially blind by the time you finish studying. Sure, in a dark room the E-book wins, but I wouldn’t read it on the bed at night because the chances are I will drop it or sleep on it and break it. Print wins here.
Cost -This is slightly funny. Business models and money making logic of the corporate big wigs in the publishing business have made sure that E-books which cost nothing to print and don’t involve any shipping charges end being more expensive than a real book. What’s the math behind it, you figure. Print wins (Yes most E-books are slightly cheaper than print, but that’s no excuse for a significant chunk to be pricier than printed books). However we will have to consider the fact that all fictional works dated before 1900 is free as it is in the public domain and is not owned by anyone. Imagine all of Shakespeare, Dickens, Mark Twain’s works for free. Hmm, lets just do away with a tie.
Green – A huge advantage in the feel good factor for E-books. The knowledge that the heart warming literary masterpiece in your hand is actually a dead tree is a very disturbing thought and E-books have definitely gained a lot of supporters for causing significantly lesser damage to the environment.E-books all the way.
Durability – Ever dropped coffee on your book and kept it to dry? Books handle spills nicely. How is a Kindle going to react to hot Assam tea inside it? Not nicely of course. And don’t even think about dropping it. Print wins.
Versatility – E-books are so adaptable to translations into all kinds of languages you can think of that print doesn’t even offer a passive resistance in this case. Print also cannot hold a candle to the various tricks that digital has at its disposal like text to speech conversion, for the visually impaired, font changes for changing reading environment etc. E-books win.
Awesomeness – You may not admit it, but secretly inside your heart, you wish that you had a mind blowing library at home with all shapes and sizes of books arranged on wooden racks, a couple of gaps in the middle and the latest book you were reading kept slightly tilted to the side. If your favourite niece is celebrating her birthday, you want to gift wrap her favourite book and you can be sure she will keep it forever. Print wins hands down.
So, after so much analysis, what do you feel the results should be? Honestly, I don’t know. Depending on which of the above factors matter more to you, the winner changes from person to person. E-books are certainly spearheading a revolutionary change in our culture. And the way technology is reinventing itself, it won’t be long before E-books slowly win over in every criteria. I have an idea, how about an E-book reader that looks and feels exactly like a bound book, and the digital content appears on the page like it would on a normal book? That would be a Nobel Prize right there.