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Big Book Chain Chat #82: Facing the future

My name is Judy. I am a bookaholic. I’ll buy a book I don’t need (and will probably never read) because I love the smell, the feel, the sight of it. I was the kind of person who threw out clothes to make cupboard space to store more books.

Until, that is, I discovered a new addiction: e-books.

At first, I resisted their seductive call.

Oh yes, I put up a good fight. I want a book to feel like a book, I said. A real book is printed on paper, I insisted. A book, I lamented, inhaling the familiar, musty scent of an ancient first edition, must smell like a book.

But then … I received my first Kindle. Smooth, sleek and black, it fitted in my hands just like, well, just like a real book.

Perhaps I’m just fickle, but less than a year after my introduction to e-books, my first choice for book-buying is an e-book (electronic book) over a p-book (paperback book.)

For both reader and writer, e-books bring advantages that p-books just can’t match.

E-books are:

  • Environmentally and cost-friendly. You never have to recycle an e-book to save a tree. And e-books generally cost less to produce (and buy) than a p-book.
  • Easy to read. Struggling with that thousand-page tome in size 10 font? No problem. Zoom in and resize your e-book to the font you want. No lights because of an Eskom power failure in your area? Again, no problem. Many e-readers incorporate built-in lighting devices. (Just make sure your battery is always charged.)
  • Easy to carry. In effect, you have a library on the go. When I’m on holiday, instead of having one suitcase filled with a selection of books, I have my Kindle library and hundreds of books to suit any reading mood.
  • Guilt-free. I have the bad habit of holding conversations with my books. I scribble notes and jot my thoughts in the margins, both of which effectively ruin the book for any other reader. With e-readers, you can make notes, reference them and delete them when you’re finished. No more hearing that voice in my head that makes me feel guilty for writing in A Book.
  • Permanently available everywhere internet technology exists. As a reader, how often have you found a new author you love and want to buy their backlist? Popular old stories are often unavailable or cost-prohibitive. E-books are permanently on the shelf to buy. For a writer, that’s a tantalising thought. Will some curious reader, a hundred years from now, on some space station heading towards Mars, download my book and be touched by it? With e-books, that’s not such a far-out scenario!

A remnant of loyalty to my old love compels me to confess that e-books are, sadly, not yet perfect. There are some disadvantages:

  • Resistance to change. Despite the acceleration of technological change leading to an increased recognition of its advantages, changes in human behavioural patterns do lag behind. People embrace change at their own pace, and many readers still prefer p-books.
  • Certain books are not suited to e-book format. Books with loads of photos, diagrams and pictures are not easy to read on the current crop of e-readers. I also find that I prefer to read poetry and reference books the old-fashioned way, in paperback.
  • Geographical and format restrictions. There’s an abundance of e-book formats, such as .mobi, .epub and .pdf. If you buy a Kindle, you can read only .mobi format. If you buy a Sony, you can’t read .mobi. So, which to buy? And, if you want to buy a particular book, will the geographical copyright restrictions allow you to purchase the e-book?
  • Power supply. To read your e-reader you need a power supply. Paper books never need recharging.
  • Not much fun to play with. How many paper aeroplanes can you make with an e-reader? None. And there’s nothing more satisfying than the thump an awful book makes when you throw it across the room. Pressing the Delete button on your e-reader doesn’t give quite the same satisfaction!


So, as both a reader and a writer, what do I face in the future?

For now, as the tsunami of technology currently changing the publishing industry continues to reshape the landscape of books, I’ll continue to read a mixture of e-books and p-books.

I have the feeling paper books will be around for a long time. But in ten years, when e-reader technology is that much more advanced and the innovative e-readers of today are the future’s dinosaurs, who knows how many paper books I’ll still be reading? I can’t begin to guess.

All I know for certain is that e-books are here to stay. And I’m seriously addicted to them.





 
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