eBook Gains and Losses

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Welcome to another installment of “State of the eBook”. A few quick news-y items, and then onto the major heart of today’s discussion, where we’ll be tackling the greatest debate in the book world today. Interested? Read on…

First, in the “cut up your nose to spite your face” department, we have the news that both Sarah Palin’s book “Rogue” and Ted Kennedy’s book “True Compass” will not be released as eBooks until some time has passed after the hardcover release. Let’s consider that for a moment. At a time when people are looking for better deals, trying to find ways to save money, and publishers are trying to find ways to keep readers, they’re actively forcing people to wait longer to get a book in their preferred medium. (via MobileRead)

Losing track of the insane number of devices that do eBooks, eBooks plus web browsing, eBooks plus web browsing plus dog walking, etc? Businessweek is reporting that there are more devices on the horizon; suddenly being able to read an eBook on it has become almost as important a feature as GPS!

There are two (general) sides to the ebook debate: those who see the technology as an amazing leap forwards, who see words as words no matter the medium. Then there are those who believe the tactile sensation of holding a paper book, the turning of the pages, the smell of the glue and the paper and the binding, cannot be replicated with screens and that reading is for paper.

So let’s do a quick rundown of where both sides have their advantages…

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  • Can carry multiple (hundreds of multiple!) ebooks in one device without using a truck.
  • Multi-device support means you can read a book anywhere; on your couch, in line at the grocery store, at work during a meeting…
  • Fonts are adjustable! No more doing the “large print walk of shame” at your local bookstore!
  • Downward price pressure (if you buy from Amazon or Sony)
  • No waiting by the mailbox them to arrive, or driving to the bookstore and encountering underpaid employees.

Paper books:

  • A unique tactile experience
  • Cover art
  • Shopping experience can be more spontaneous and social.
  • Powells, The Strand, insert your favorite local bookstore.
  • No digital rights management
  • Less publisher-imposed geographic limitations, books work in any country.
  • Very few books (outside of textbooks) cost as much as a dedicated ebook reader.
  • Worst outcome when you spill coffee on a regular book is a stained book (as opposed to the sound of your wallet screaming in horror).

I see both sides of this debate; I love my Kindle, I love ebooks. But I also spent three years managing bookstores, and there are some experiences that cannot be replicated by point and click. Personally, I have a handful of books that I will always want to have in paper form, and it will take more than the convenience of a Kindle to keep me from spending way too much money in every bookstore I see.

Where do you fall in this debate? Do you straddle both sides, clinging to the paper and the digital? Or have you sworn off all things paper and only buying books you can measure in megabytes instead of pages? And finally, even if you are all digital, are there some books you simply can’t bear to have in anything other than dusty old paper?

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About the Author

Zek has been a gadget fiend for a long time, going back to their first PDA (a Palm M100). They quickly went from researching what PDA to buy to following tech news closely and keeping up with the latest and greatest stuff. They love writing about ebooks because they combine their two favorite activities; reading anything and everything, and talking about fun new tech toys. What could be better?