The release of e-books has been a controversial subject to me since day one. When college came around, I was advised to read articles upon articles that were posted online as PDFs. This is when I knew that e-books were not for me. I would print out the PDFs after struggling to concentrate on the computer screen for 5 pages. I understand that with The Nook and The Kindle, the screens are designed to be read like you would a physical book, but this college experience sticks with me. Looking at a screen, you don’t have that curve in the page that physical books give you; You don’t have that fabulous new book smell, or even old book smell! You also lose the sound of pages being flipped, that fabulous crisp sound. The Kindle advertises the beauty of quieter page turns, and no longer seeing glue holding the book’s pages together with its product; but that removes some of the experience you get from having the actual book in your hands. Maybe I enjoy paper and binding too much, but I like having it in my hands. It feels more real – the words coming off the page with the curve from holding it, and no screen encasing it from my touch. You can’t cuddle up with a piece of plastic, not as easily as flexible paperback books.
Beyond the physical experience you lose from using a Kindle or Nook, the text itself loses some of its value. E-books sell for around $2.99-$3.99, whereas physical books sell for $10-$20. With e-books so much more accessible, the time a writer puts into writing a book and developing the book itself (deciding on binding, covers, text fonts, etc.) isn’t as apparent. With the click of a button, a person can easily page over to the next page and ignore that work, diving right into the text. When you have the physical book, the time it takes to flip a page allows the reader to consume some of that work whether they want to or not. We’re talking split seconds with e-books versus a few seconds with physical books here.
Having these e-books so readily available also removes that search readers would have gone through before technology provided instant gratification. We lose that experience of constantly reminding ourselves the name of an author and book we’re searching for at the bookstore when we just need to know it for a second in our online search. This rapid instant gratification puts information in and out of our brains so quickly that authors and books themselves are only talk of the day, not the year. Our society seems to be heading down this same spiral in various aspects, I’m looking at you Twitter, but that’s a topic for another day. That loss of focus on books removes the value they once had sitting on bookshelves in the stores and our homes.
My main concern about e-books is how easily they can get stolen. Copyright is of distinct importance with the increased accessibility of author’s works. If an author’s e-book lands in the wrong hands, they risk losses in royalties and maybe even someone out their trying to claim ownership over their work. I personally have not taken on the risk of publishing my book, Tearing Honor, as an e-book. That said, I don’t really want to because of the above reasons. I want to see physical books live on throughout my life.
What do you think about the changes going on in the publishing industry? Do you prefer physical books or e-books?
(Note: added below to blog post on March 10th, 2011)
P.S. I just found this article spoke well to how I feel about this topic. It covers both the positive aspects of e-books and physical books: Paper Vs. Plastic