Wednesday, 28 November 2012

E-books: A library in the palm of your hand

As a English Literature student, I have always held a slightly pretentious and snobbishly traditional view towards the 'craze' of the eBook; nothing will ever beat the satisfaction of holding a good, paper-back book. However, with the increase in appealing and impressive technology that support eBooks, such as the the Apple ipad and the Amazon Kindle Fire, especially with their access to the web and app accessibility,  I can't help but be intrigued by the device!

The popularity of e-books can be obviously seen in the statistics. The Association of American Publishers reported that in the first quarter of 2012, adult eBook sales were up to $282.3 million while adult hardcover sales came to only $229.6 million. In last year's first quarter, hardcover sales accounted for $223 million sales while eBooks logged $220.4 million.

With my reluctance to embrace the new world of literature online, I have missed out on many of the advantages of the eBook. For a start, the availability and range of eBooks are staggering, with over 2 million being absolutely free. You are only limited by the memory capacity of your device; a tablet that you can hold in one hand is a lot less hassle than the impossibility of carrying around thousands of paper-back books. Furthermore, eBook websites can include the ability to translate books into many different languages, making the works available to speakers of languages not covered by printed translations. And best of all, while an eBook reader costs much more than one book, the electronic texts can be cheaper, and many of the classics are free.

There is also a kind of satisfaction, merging on an obsession, of collecting eBooks; once you start it is very hard to stop. They are easy to buy and download, as well as filling up your iPad with loads of thumbnails and interesting time-wasting buttons to press.

I believe that this is just the beginning of the eBook; it has a much greater and expansive live ahead of it. Of course traditional books will never die out (I hope at least not in my life time). It will evolve in unexpected ways just as the music industry has evolved and adapted. Its ease and convenience will make it an unstoppable phenomenon.


  1. The writer John Green said on his vlog a couple of months ago: 'I don't care how you read, I care whether you read.' I agree with this completely. I was initially apprehensive about e-readers. I felt they were going to be a detriment to the publishing industry and that it was a step too far. However, I was bought a Kindle for Christmas despite my protestations and I will say that my mind was changed. I commute to university everyday by train and the Kindle makes life much easier. I think it is definitely an individual's personal choice that should be taken into account when it comes to the format in which they choose to read. What is becoming annoying though is the idea that if you read on an e-reader you are somehow lowering yourself, you are succumbing to a fad, you are stupid. This is ridiculous. The content is always going to be exactly the same, it's just convenience and personal preference making the decision, not your intellect.

  2. I think there is a place for both. I completely agree with what John Green says, that it is the content and not the format which makes the book - a story is still a story, no more or less compelling, whether you read it in print or on a screen! This said, I definitely have a place in my heart for good, traditional, tangible books (as the overflowing shelves in my flat testify) because there is something much more satisfying about /having/ books. It's the weight of them, the way you can tell how loved one is by how you keep it, the joy of having a matching set all lined up on a shelf. And can you really imagine going into a library where there were only computer archives and you simply downloaded anything you wanted to read?

    Also, there was a debate recently about who owns the rights to the e-books you buy. This comes back to the security of /owning/ a book. If you have it on your shelf, nobody can wander into your house and take it away, whereas Amazon retains the right to deleting your e-book content if it sees fit, regardless what you have paid. While I still use Kindle (as an app, on my laptop) I only ever use it for the practicality, like Amy said, of not having to take everything I might want to read on a train with me.

    Again, it is the content that matters and what John Green says about the fact that people are reading /at all/ being excellent is spot on. I think that by increasing the portability and accessibility to books open to the public, the e-book can only be a good thing!


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