The way I see it, you either love or hate the idea of ebooks.
I’m one of those people who love to buy books, read them, dog ear them, lend them, re-read them, order them, display them and most importantly: keep them on my bookshelf for ever.
So to me, when I see someone reading from a Kindle on the train, it seems like a waste. I choose to see the negative aspects of the ebook phenomenon. But the world must be onto something, not this many people can be totally wrong. There have to be some pros.
I can come up with a whole lot of cons.
- ebooks don’t have that fresh (or wonderfully old) paper smell
- ebooks can’t sit on your shelf and decorate your empty wall space
- If you loose the storage space for your ebooks, your whole library is gone
- They rely on batteries, which die
- They don’t have any character i.e. you can’t judge the book by its cover
I had to get online to assess the pros though. Begrudgingly, I had to admit there were some cons.
- ebooks have audio options
- They’re cheaper than real books
- They don’t weigh as much either
- You can do advanced searches on them
- in terms of text books, they won’t weigh down your bag
Still not won over, I did some further research. I found out that the first ebook was made in 1971, before this whole internet/digital age began (the internet went live in ’74). I realised as I was reading that online communication gave readers the ability to be more precise about what they read, either for pleasure or for study. The popularity of ebooks grew, as did the concern for what would happen to print media forms.
The creation of amazon.com in 1995, however, put a new spin on this. While ebooks were being used as a marketing tool by publishers, Jeff Bezos, the creator of amazon, saw books as the most popular product to sell online. He reasoned that,
‘Books… were an $82 billion market worldwide. The price point was another major criterion: I wanted a low-priced product. I reasoned that since this was the first purchase many people would make online, it had to be non-threatening in size. A third criterion was the range of choice: there were 3 million items in the book category and only a tenth of that in CDs, for example.’
Barnes & Nobel were one of the cleaver businesses to recognise the huge potential in online book sales, competing with amazon online since /97. Not all book distributers, however, were this clever. A couple of years ago, Borders went out of business due to their inability to compete with online prices. This to me was terribly sad. Going into a book store and taking the time to browse, try and see if you want to buy.
I can see how useful ebooks are, and why so many people (my 81 year old Grandma included), are into them. They’re in sync with every other digitalised aspect of modern society. They’re light, easy and cheap. Aside from all the undeniable pros, they’ll still never replace the comfort, enjoyment and nostalgic value that is inspired by real books.
Image source: http://whilethekidsaresleeping.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/my-favourite-books.jpg