Gadgets such as the Kindle and Nook have changed the way we think about books to a great degree. It’s been said that less and less people are reading books as the result of the content-rich environment we live in courtesy of sites like YouTube and social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. To a degree, these assumptions are absolutely correct. Our lives have become busier and we’re constantly being bombarded by content both online and off. Television, even now, has a firm grasp on a great deal of our time here in the US. So, will the proliferation of e-books save the publishing industry?
I’m still on the fence about this one. While e-books are generally very useful, the advantages of physical books are still very clear. Traditional books never have to be charged, can be used at any time during flight, and last practically forever. On the other hand, e-books can be read in the dark thanks to backlit screens, are quickly searched via software, and can be carried virtually anywhere.
I started reading e-books when I owned a Palm Handspring back in the early 2000s. This little device took several months of savings and had very little to offer in terms of processing power or storage capacity. It did, however, work very well as a handheld e-book reader. Granted, most of the titles available at the time were typically pirated, but it did work. I remember turning on auto-scrolling and kicking back with the e-book scrolling by at the same pace as my eyes, a convenience I miss even now with the simple page turning offered by the Kindle. Do you know of a good iOS reader app that does autoscrolling and works with Kindle books?
Either way, the advantages and disadvantages of each medium should be weighed carefully before dropping your money for one or the other. As explained in a recent LockerGnome article, e-books aren’t always a better deal than a physical book. Likewise, you can often find a better price for an electronic version of a new release.
E-books are by far the most portable between the two. You can carry 1,000 works of literature in your pocket, rather than having to strain your back lugging around what could amount to an impossible several thousand pounds of paper and binding.
If you’ve ever changed addresses with even a moderate book collection, you’re probably acutely aware of just how impossible it can be to move boxes of books in and out of your home. One or two is fine, but a dozen books can be a backbreaker.
Cost is one area up for intense debate. While new releases are generally cheaper in electronic form, you can find older books at a very reasonable price. In addition, used book stores can still be found all over the place and these books can commonly be found at half the original price.
Traditional books can be traded, bought, and sold. You’re capable of making some, if not most of your original investment back as you pass the book on to the next owner.
E-books are less flexible. You’re usually bound by DRM and unable to share the book unless you hand someone your e-book reader or user name and password. Even then, you may be breaking terms and conditions. Books predate the modern notion of licensing, allowing you to “own” the item. You don’t have to ask permission or purchase a special license to resell it.
“What is the battery life of a book?” This question was asked by one of my close friends after I attempted to explain my reasoning behind keeping some important reference books on the iPad in PDF form. The discussion revolved around why someone would even need to use an iPad. My point about its usefulness as an e-book reader was easily lost in the reality that books don’t fail on you because you’re not able to plug it in once in a while. As long as you have some lighting in the room, you’re good to go.
Experience is one area that is different for each individual. E-books are great in that they can be easily searched via the e-book reader software, can sync across multiple Wed-enabled devices, and can be displayed with user-defined fonts, background colors, and more. An e-book reader is typically fairly light, and can be installed on everything from a smartphone to a desktop computer. Tablets are the most popular reading devices, and the Nook and Kindle have made reading electronic books a cost-efficient pastime. For less than $100, you can read electronic books in a way that is actually easier on the eyes than some traditional print.
On the other hand, books come in a variety of shapes and sizes specific to the content. The feel and almost spiritual satisfaction some get out of actually owning or simply holding a physical book in their hands can’t be replaced by 1s and 0s. The printed word has been around (and even responsible for) some of the most significant revelations in the history of mankind. Imagine where we would be if we didn’t have books from hundreds of years ago? A single book detailing the struggles of our ancestors is important, and to many, having a physical reminder available should we one day lose our precious 1s and 0s is very important.
E-books may be here to stay, but there will be a place in this world for physical printed media for generations to come..
Reference books, especially, are typically easier to navigate as they can be bookmarked with important content made readily accessible without load times or lockups so common with large PDF files on mobile devices. All it takes is a turn of a page and you can be where you need to be in the book. Even with modern processors in portable devices, e-books can take a heavy toll and really drag down the experience.
One example of this would be role-playing rulebooks. If you’ve ever tried navigating through a Dungeons & Dragons rulebook to find various bits and pieces of information that aren’t located in the same section, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s a pain, to say the least. Perhaps this will get better as processing speeds increase along with RAM.
Books and e-books are strikingly similar. Both of them have a fair share of pros and cons. What works great for you might not do so for the next person. Ultimately, the choice comes down to personal preference and needs. Many still prefer mixing the two in their own personal libraries depending on what each book is intended for.
Bottom line: There can be no clear winner in this battle of the literary mediums. Depending on the reader, the book, or the device, either side is equally capable of winning preference. What do you think? Are you more inclined to purchase an e-book or something more physical?