Books versus e-books: tackling the issue
Ever since the rising popularity of Amazon’s Kindle and other similar devices, the ‘book versus e-book’ debate draws ever closer to becoming a full-scale war, at least where readers and writers are concerned. But which is best, really? This post is designed to look at the pros and cons of both mediums, although my opinion will be said firmly and clearly throughout (it’s quite obvious where I stand). So, without further ado…
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
Traditional publishing has been around since, well, since a long time. One of the earliest forms of printing was woodblock printing, the earliest examples originating from as early as 220 A.D. E-publishing has been around for less than a hundred years. Are people that quick to cling on to a new idea? Surely something that has been around for centuries (and is not broken) is more reliable than something that has been around for a fraction of that time?
Paperbacks and hardbacks are not out-of-date. Paper is not out-of-date. When a child comes home from school to bring back a drawing, he brings it home on paper. Surely peope don’t have as much control drawing with a finger on a screen as they do with a pencil in their hands. So it is with writers: they prefer their work to be published with paper, not with MegaBytes.
However, e-books can still stand their ground. So many new inventions have been created in the past hundred-or-so years, and people rely on these machines each and every day – cars, computers, washing machines. A vast amount of technology is relied upon today, so why can’t we move on in this endeavour?
Don’t sit so close to the screen
Okay, so apparently it’s not sitting too close to the T.V. that’s bad for the eyes, but rather a lack of blinking. When our eyes stare at a screen, they forget to blink. Do real books do this? No, is the simple answer. Books are ergonomic – there is little strain on the eyes, they are comfortable to hold in your hands, and it is easy to turn a page. If you know where a certain section is within a book, you simply flick to it. With e-books, however, it is a different matter. First you have to find the section you are looking for using the contents page, then you have to scroll to see the exact page you want. Ergonomically friendly? I don’t think so.
But again, e-readers have their advantages. Multiple books can be carried around easily when on an e-reader, and the prices of books are cheaper. Ereaders are also just as comfortable to hold as books, so who’s to say that e-readers aren’t ergonomic either?
But studies have shown!
The Joan Ganz Cooney Center recruited 32 pairs of parents and their 3-6 year-old children to read print books and e-books. In the data collected, it was seen that children remembered less story details on the e-book version than the printed version, and the printed book more engaging than the e-book. You can see the full research here. Basically it is seen that the parent and child is more engaged and their conversation more active and content (story) related. With parents and children reading far, far less these days, isn’t it better to boost the version which is more friendly (printed books)?
Jakob Nielsen (website: www.useit.com) published a study, his results showing that readers slow down when using electronic devices (6.2% slower for i-books, 10.7% slower for Kindle [e-books]). This means that people will read less books a year than normal, and is this a good thing? I don’t think so. Writers want to read as many books as possible, and hard-core readers are similar. However, there is a catch. This study used only 24 readers, and it didn’t calculate the fact that readers may get used to reading on a Kindle, therefore they might read faster. But still, why waste time training to read faster on a Kindle when you can already do so with a printed book?
And the winner is…
I hesitate when I write this, but the winner is…no one. Readers simply differ from one another, with one a die-hard Kindle fan, another just as stubborn with printed books. It’s safe to say that I’m firmly with the ‘printed books are better’ group, and here are my two reasons for his, although I’m sure there are more.
Firstly, there’s the sheer joy of walking around a bookstore; not so with e-books. Example: “Hey, Mum, can we have a walk around that e-book store?” “I’m afraid not, child. E-bookstores don’t exist.” Moral of the story? You can’t browse online as much as you can in a shop. When I shop online (rarely), I’m always looking for something in particular. How can you not? Walking into a random second-hand seaside town bookshop – this excitement will be lost if and when e-readers come to the fore.
Secondly, I think of the generations to come. Is it really wise to raise your children by reading bedtime stories from a screen? Artists and writers like to draw and see their work on paper. The world should just accept that. Just because everything else relies on technology, doesn’t mean that books have to give in as well.
The final verdict? Neither wins, at least not right now. But the thing is, e-books may well replace ink and paper soon, and that, my friends, will be one of the saddest events of the near future. My verdict? Paper beats Kindle!
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