There’s been a big battle in recent years between those who love a physical, hard or paperback book and those who are celebrating the existence of the eBook. You only have to Google the question ‘eBook or physical book?’ to get many blogs and posts outlining which is better or laying out all the facts.
But did you know that the first eBook was patented in 1949? The idea, from a Spanish teacher, was to decrease the number of books that students had to carry. A very good idea, if you ask me, even if it didn’t really hit it off. There are many incidents from history that outline various different versions of eBooks, but I doubt many of them appear quite like the eBooks we have in 2013.
Universities have had access to digital copies of books for years, I remember back in 2006 when I started my university degree, having to use the digital book library in order to do some of my research. I’m sure the idea goes back a lot further, though.
Back then the idea wasn’t necessarily about portable eBooks, it was more, a digital version of a physical book to be viewed on a computer and other such device. That’s not to say that Sony didn’t try. They created a Data Discman, where you could read books that were saved onto CDs. Quite a revolutionary idea, if you ask me. Other companies tried again around 1998. It wasn’t until more famous eReaders like the Sony Reader and the Amazon Kindle that eBooks really hit the big time.
I think it’s safe to say that the Kindle is the eReader that everyone knows about. It’s the iPod of mp3 players and the iPad of tablets. Instead of suggesting someone buy an eBook on an eReader, it’s perfectly natural for someone to assume that everyone owns a Kindle. That’s not necessarily true, but then the same could have been said for iPod/mp3 players and iPad/tablets.
So what makes the eBook better than the physical book?
- It’s portable.
- You can carry many books on one device, which is great for travel and commuting.
- It’s easy to buy a new book on the go, even if you’re in a country where they speak a different language.
- There are many classics available for free, or very low costs.
- No need to wait for shipping or pay shipping fees, and you don’t even need to visit a bookshop.
- Samples. Why buy a book when you don’t know if you’ll like it? Samples are a useful way of knowing if a book has you hooked before you buy.
As great as these points are, there are some downsides too.
- Bookshops have suffered in the age of online shopping, eBooks don’t help with that.
- The feel of holding a book in your hand is very different to holding an eReader, and some readers prefer that physical book feel.
- There is a limited battery life on an eReader, especially if said eReader does other things such as allow you to play games.
- Every woman, man and their dog thinks they can publish their own eBook, which is both good and bad.
- A point I discovered on Google, you can’t get an eBook signed! Which would be a great shame if you had the opportunity to meet your favourite author.
Having considered the upsides and the downsides to eBooks, my opinion isn’t really changed.
I am a book lover. I love the feel of paper against my skin and the print lay out in front of me without the distraction of the internet or gaming. I enjoy letting people see which books I am reading, and seeing which books other people are. I enjoy perusing a bookshop, walking around the shelves for hours just taking in all of the lovely spines, titles and covers.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t acknowledge, and actively engaged with, the advantages of eBooks. I was bought a Kindle for Christmas a couple of years ago and it’s been very helpful. I like to download samples, I like to buy cheap books that I’d never have discovered had it not been for the eBook library.
I, like many, make use of both physical books and an eReader. I juggle them depending on what I am reading and when I am reading them. I use the Kindle to download samples, I use my iPad to download free books thanks to cards they hand out in Starbucks. I like to read books that I’m not that bothered about on my Kindle. But as soon as it’s a book that matters? I head straight for the book shop and run my fingers through the pages.
This year I bought a book by Jodi Picoult, The Storyteller and it was very important to me that I had a physical copy of the book. The hardback version, to be exact. Not because I must own all Jodi Picoult books in hardback, I’ve got plenty in paperback. But because Jodi Picoult’s UK team decided to host a celebration, I suppose, a way of honouring and appreciating a number of UK fans. I bought the hardback version because it had my name in the back cover.
That’s something I will never be able to say about my Kindle books.
And let’s face it…
Info on eBooks from Wikipedia.