Sunday, August 1, 2010
Ebooks vs. print
On a discussion board recently I saw a question about whether ebooks would displace print entirely, with the implication being that print = commercial, old-style publishing and electronic = new wave.
The latter is another blog post in and of itself, but I enjoyed the rest of the discussion because it highlighted the fact that although ebooks and print are very different media, the one doesn’t cancel out the other.
Pros of ebooks :
1. More books, less space : Years ago, I was stuck in a small town in India for over a month with six paperback books, all that would fit into a tiny suitcase beside my clothes. By the end of my sojourn I’d read those so many times that I never wanted to see them again (though on the plus side there were no distractions at all, so I got some writing done as well).
A Kindle would have come in so handy at that time.
2. Availability : No need to drive to the store, no need to wait for the books to be shipped to you.
3. Affordability : Provided you have an ereader (or a computer), ebooks are nearly always cheaper than the print version.
If anyone knows of any others that I’ve left out, please let me know in the comments section.
Pros of print :
1. Traditional appeal : Some readers like the feel and smell of new books. I enjoy the visual display of colorful spines of books on my shelves, arranged by genre and author. To me, a library or study is a place filled with bookcases. Those give me a warm, cosy, surrounded-by-old-friends feeling that the Kindle can't duplicate.
2. Sentimental value : One of my favorite books is a collection of cartoons called What’s so funny about Microbiology? and it was autographed by the author, Joachim Czichos. You can’t autograph an ebook.
I also have a copy of The Good Earth which my now-deceased grandmother received as a Christmas present in 1949. She wrote her name and the date in it. Ebooks can't replace books which are prized for their sentimental or collectible value.
3. Books that don’t translate well to the electronic version : I love collections of fantasy art, and those books are typically large. Many details of the art might be lost if they were shrunk down to Kindle size.
4. Affordability : What if you can’t afford an ereader? People in underdeveloped countries might find paperback books more within their budget than Nooks or Kindles. Not to mention people in correctional institutions.
5. Libraries : I like going to libraries, checking out their new releases and being able to borrow hundreds of books. No matter how affordable ebooks get, they can’t beat free.
I’m clearly more familiar with print and prefer it – I’ve only read three ebooks in my life, with my own being one of them. But I think the discussion showed that ebooks aren’t going to take the place of print copies any more than televisions have replaced movie theaters. The two media serve different needs and functions.
What are your thoughts on this? And which do you prefer – ebook or print?