The rise of the e-reader has been quite the spectacle in recent years, causing the traditional publishing industry to be irreversibly altered by the emergence of electronic books that can be stored and read in their thousands on portable devices that are lighter than the average paperback.
Of course, the question most people will ask is whether e-readers are actually better than a good old-fashioned book printed on tangible paper and stored in a library or at home on a shelf.
To address the issue, here are the pros and cons of each format presented as objectively as possible so that you can make up your own mind.
E-readers come in a variety of styles. Because eBook file formats are digital you can actually read them on a wide selection of devices, including home PCs and smartphones.
The world’s most well-known e-readers come from the Amazon Kindle range, which consists of slender, small devices with monochrome e-ink displays that are designed to replicate the look of a real printed book. There are plenty of other dedicated e-readers, but most echo the features of the Kindle family, allowing you to read books as well as access a digital download service via integrated Wi-Fi or 3G connectivity.
The main benefit of an e-reader is that you can store literally thousands of digital tomes on a device with a battery that can last several weeks because there is no need for a backlight or full-colour display.
You can take an e-reader on holiday with you and save loads of space in your suitcase that might otherwise be taken up by books.
The primary advantage of buying eBooks is that, as previously mentioned, they will actually be compatible with other devices, so you can start reading a book on your smartphone and then pick up where you left off when you synchronise it with your e-reader.
A lot of the arguments for traditional printed books centre on nostalgia, with people pointing out that a sterile e-reader can never have the same charm or tactile quality of a paperback or hardback publication.
While these are all certainly valid, there are plenty of practical reasons to put your vote in the book camp as well. For example, if you take a book to the beach or the poolside and it gets wet, is dropped or gets lost, it is no great issue. Meanwhile, an e-reader can become damaged or stolen like any electronic device, potentially leaving you with an entire library (and a lot of money) down the drain.
Moreover, books can be passed down to future generations, while the throwaway consumer culture means that the average e-reader ends up in the bin or gathering dust in a cupboard once a newer model comes along.
The book is a perfected medium and will not change, but the e-reader is still in an evolutionary phase.
In reality, avid readers will be able to make room in their lives for both electronic and traditional books, as they possess qualities that are independent of each other. You could argue that the real value is stored in the written word itself, not the conduit through which it is delivered to the reader, so anything that helps ideas survive on the page or the screen should be commended.
This guest post was written by Franki on behalf of www.nottinghilleditions.com. Notting Hill Editions produce a wide range of non-fiction and essay books.
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