Thursday, February 04, 2010

E-books: incredible opportunity or dangerous path?

Ever since middle school, I've been a big reader. J.K. Rowling ignited my love for reading with her Harry Potter series and I've tried to read often ever since. I have recently considered purchasing an e-book reader, but I have a few qualms with them in general. I will proceed to lay out a few of the reasons why I would like to have an e-book reader, as well as point out the reasons why I'm not so sure I want to go down that road.

-One of my favorite pics taken the night
Deathly Hallows came out

  • Storage- The prospect of having an entire library of books at my fingertips is quite an exciting concept. The fact that I can order a new book in an airport, on the beach, or even from my couch, and have it delivered to me in seconds is incredibly enticing. In my eyes, this is the best reason to own an e-book reader.
  • Reduce clutter- You can only have so many bookshelves in a home. At my house, I have books laying all over the place. Buying an e-book reader would free up quite a bit of storage space around my home.
  • Durability- My original Harry Potter books are in absolute shambles because I've read them so much, especially the binding. With an e-book reader, the books will never age and I can read them over and over (although it is possible the device will age). Even if the hardware device fails, digital purchases are saved and can be re-downloaded later.
  • Comfort- This may be an issue relevant only to myself, but I'm sure someone out there has experienced it at some point. Whenever I read, I usually prefer to curl up under a blanket while lounging around on the couch. However, as odd as it may sound, I often find it difficult and somewhat uncomfortable to hold my book with both hands, particularly with larger hardback books. I've devised a semi comfortable method by laying on my back and propping up the book on a pillow, but even this gets uncomfortable sometimes. With an e-book reader, I can hold the device with only one hand. Maybe it's just me, but in my head I can see myself getting much more comfortable with an e-book reader.
  • Publishing- The iTunes app store has been an incredibly success in many ways, but I find it particularly intriguing in how it has allowed small companies and even individuals to get their apps out to the world. It really seems to have leveled the playing field and the "little guy" has just as much chance to succeed as everyone else. As far as I know, this is an untapped area in terms of e-books. Now I'm not a publishing or legal guru, but how awesome would it be if I could release my own book for a cheaper price, say $5, and have it published and available for anyone worldwide? Definitely an interesting idea to consider.
  • Nostalgia- I am nearly 24 years old, but even I can appreciate the act of opening up a book and devouring its pages. Books are certainly older than film and much older than video games, which creates an entirely different feeling of nostalgia. When I open up a book, I am reading the same way that Jesus, Ghandi, Abraham Lincoln, and countless others did before me. To me, there is just something truly fascinating about that idea.
  • Cost- As it stands now, consumers go out and purchase books with only the book's price to consider. Now, we must also consider the price of the hardware. Amazon's Kindle currently retails for $259, a pretty staggering amount when you actually consider what the device does. Digital e-books started out as cheaper than their physical counterparts; however, recent events show a trend that they are inching closer and closer to being even. If I pay a premium for the device, then shouldn't the content come cheaper? Basically, I'm paying them to take away the physical copies of my books. I have yet to understand why companies feel we should pay a premium for digital content, but that's another blog post entirely. In addition, if the device itself fails, then you will be forced to pay yet again.
Weird/random cons that only I would consider:
  • No libraries-In a completely digital world, libraries are no least libraries as we know them. This may be the scariest thought of all. Maybe it's just because I come from a generation where libraries are held in such high regard, almost in a spiritual way. It's as if library visitors can just feel the knowledge emanating from the many pages contained in a library. In D.J. Machale's Pendragon series, the main character visits a future version of earth and finds the libraries to be entirely different. In fact, there are no books at all. The library is mainly comprised of computer databases that have immense amounts of information. Holograms of historical figures appear and discuss their lives instead of having someone read the information.
  • No books (as we know them)- What if e-books become so successful that society decides there is no longer a need for books in general? What if every true text is destroyed and only the digital copies remain? Maybe I'm just thinking too much along the lines of Fahrenheit 911 and The Book of Eli film, but you would have to think that it's a possibility somewhere down the road. If society ever eradicated physical books, then it may be too slippery a slope to overcome. Obviously, this is all very hypothetical and certainly nothing we would see in our lifetime. However, we must carefully consider the consequences of what an all-digital future would look like.
After all of that, I still think I would like to have an e-book reader. I do hope that digital books can exist alongside traditional books. Certain books will always hold a place in my heart and I will always buy the physical copies. For example, I will ALWAYS own at least one physical copy of The Bible and each Harry Potter book. In all honesty, I actually think I would read even more and own even more books if I had an e-book reader. I can guarantee that I would be much more likely to at least consider buying a new book instead of waiting for it to come out at my local library.

I think this is just a fascinating debate and would love to hear the thoughts of others. What do you guys think about e-book readers? Would you like to have one?


logankstewart said...

Sweet! You posted.

An e-book reader would be nice to have for the reasons you've mentioned, true, especially with independent publishing.

As for cons, DRMs come into play, especially if using Amazon's Kindle. If I buy an e-book, I want to own the book. There are no DRMs with a physical book.

I love your nostalgic comparison of reading. I've never thought about it, but it's true. Holding a book and reading is an experience that connects people through time.

I don't see e-readers and e-books taking over the written, physical word anytime soon, but I do think it's a likely prospect for the distant future. I feel like our generation is on the cusp of the digital age, but we have enough background in the pre-digital age, too. Perhaps a generation or two later will grow up buying mp3 albums and e-books, forsaking cds and hardbacks.

Great post, and very interesting.

Jonathan Francis said...

Thanks for the feedback Logan! You've inspired me. I'm going to try and post more, lol.

logankstewart said...

Excellent. I'll put a plug for your blog on my next (relevant) post. I've subscribed to your RSS feed.

Good luck, if you stick with it.

PSN Profile