Nothing like a good book. An expression that holds true for so many of us, and probably has since written language first developed. And certainly since the printing press and mass publication of books began reaching the masses.
When it comes to books, the last few years have probably seen the biggest change since the invention of typeset. Not just in paper anymore, but those ubiquitous code zeros and ones. There’s the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble NOOK 3G+WiFi eReader – White/Gray, and Kobo eReader – Porcelain, to name but a few e-book devices. Not to mention the Apple iPad and other tablets, and the ‘old-fashioned’ alternative of course, a regular ol’ desktop or laptop computer.
Digital has certain advantages. It can be more portable, incredibly so for carrying around a bunch of books at the same time. And as for new book releases, distribution is easier, and titles are still a lot cheaper than hardcover equivalents. According to Amazon, more than 81% of its 630,000 electronic books are $9.99 US or less.
Probably one of the most convenient advantages to me is the ability to search for a particular word or passage with just a click of the mouse, or tap of the screen. How many times have you wanted to refer to, or share a part of something you’ve read in a book, and just can’t find it? You know it’s there, but where? Perhaps we’ve gotten spoiled with all the wonderful digital search functions, but I sure like being able to find what I’m looking for without racking my brain so much, or practically re-reading something, scanning it just to find a particular passage.
I love Amazon’s “Look Inside!” feature for many of their titles. Especially for reference books where you may want to see how many occurrences of a particular word or term of interest there are before buying it. Given the whole book is available to scan like this, one might think sales would drop. But that doesn’t seem to be happening.
In fact, Amazon.com reports that they are now selling more e-books than hardcover books, almost a 150% more in fact. And the pace of Kindle sales has actually tripled since Amazon lowered the price of the Kindle last month. It went from a base price of $259 US to $189 US. Of course the Kobo eReader – Porcelain and Kobo eReader – Black from Chapter/Indigo are even cheaper at $149 CDN. How cool is it that electronics remain one of the few types of products that get better and cheaper at the same time. Remember what your first computer cost and how little storage, speed, and memory it likely had? A 2GB hard drive – hard to imagine now…
Still, for all their advantage, there’s no substitute for holding a book of paper pages in your hands. Curling up with an e-reader or computer doesn’t have quite the same appeal perhaps, but I think it may be getting there. Maybe it’s just what we’re used to. Maybe one day, just like in the world of science fiction, little screens will be the reading norm. For some people they probably already are.
But I hope, and genuinely believe, there will always be a place for books where you manually have to turn the pages of paper to see what happens next. I want that. I also want digital. May we always have choice, and alternatives to suit whatever the circumstances, need, and mood. Maybe it’s kind of like wanting the advantages of digital camera photos, but also still wanting paper versions framed on the wall. And hey, there are no viruses, bugs, or crashes to worry about with books. They’re always there, just as you remember them, comforting to hold and ready explore.