Will printed books die? It seems impossible to imagine, but there is a real fear amongst book lovers that soon books will be nothing but a distant memory. In the 1980’s the CD was invented. Many people were confident that LPs (or vinyl records if you prefer) would continue to be the preferred way to listen to music. Now we are faced with the delema of eBooks vs books.
It was argued that CD’s were too fragile, that the sound was too electronic and that they would ever sound as good. However, within a decade vinyl record sales had slumped and the production of new vinyl albums had all but disappeared completely. And now we are experiencing a decline in CD sales as more people opt to download music direct to their computers and smartphones.
What about printed Books?
So what does this tell us about eBooks vs books? Well, for a start, no matter how passionate some people are about books there is a whole generation of people growing up who have never felt the need to refer to printed books. Information, stories, text books and magazines are all available online. You can order a new book from Amazon in ebook format and it will be downloaded almost instantly to the device of your choice. You do not even have to wait for the postman to deliver it anymore.
We are living in a society where book shops are closing, under funded libraries are disappearing and all the while ebook sales and downloads continue to break new records. Amazon reported earlier in 2011 that ebooks were out-selling paper books. The tide has turned. Can books survive?
Many people are so passionate about books that they feel it is a human right to have them. But the manufacturing of books is resource intensive and although some books survive for a long time many are discarded and recycled creating a huge amount of waste each year. Once an ebook has been created it can be duplicated any number of times at no cost.
Problems with eBooks
Of course, it is not all good. The music and video industry have been going through many changes since the rise of digital media. Digital products are too easy to copy and the music and film industries are constantly battling against pirate copies which circulate the Internet in various Torrent sites. There are already many people sharing ebooks online, books which they do not own the copyright of.
Looking at a computer screen for too long can cause some people to strain their eyes too much, and this is another negative for ebooks. However, the same can be said for printed books too. Also, many ebook readers now use the liquid paper technology so that reading from Amazon’s Kindle is as easy for the eye as reading from paper.
Ebooks are Better – Ebooks vs Books
Ebooks have many more advantages over printed books other than the cost of production.
Text books in ebook format can be searched
Text books in ebook format can be searched thoroughly in seconds. There is no need to hope that the entry you are looking for is listed in the index as you can just press search an entire ebook in seconds using ctrl-F.
Ebooks can be saved to your computer
Ebooks can be saved to your computer once you have bought them and you can back them up too. You no longer risk losing books. About 10 years ago I started reading the PG Wodehouse series of books about Jeeves and Wooster. I left the last one on an aeroplane before I finished it. I never bought another copy. In 1993 I started reading Wild Swans by Jung Chang. It was fascinating, but I borrowed it from the university library and after 3 weeks somebody else wanted it. I never finished it. If I had these in ebook format I would have been able to finish the books at my leisure.
Ebooks can also be any length
This may seem like a strange advantage, but the book industry is very much like the music industry. Many years ago albums would be no more than 45 minutes in length as this was the most that you could fit on a 33 rpm LP. Once CD’s took over musicians started making longer albums – they were no longer restricted by a time limit.
Novelists are expected to create a book of a certain length as publishers want at least 200 pages of text to make the book stand out on a shelf in a shop. Authors are forced to flesh out stories because of this. Many good stories are too long to be a “short story” and too short to be accepted by a publisher, so never get published.
Authors can self publish
Authors can now publish direct to ebook if they desire. Suddenly authors are back in control of their art.
Global Distribution of eBooks
By far the greatest benefits of ebooks is that they can be so quickly distributed globally. A new book can be published and instantly available in every country to buy. Books can now literally become over night best sellers. If J.K. Rowling decided to release a new Harry Potter book in digital format only you can guarantee that it will sell 100 million copies on the first day.
Jon Wade is a health scientist, a researcher and an author. He has so far published only one ebook, The Low GI Diet Plan – Glycemic Diet eBook, and his web content has been read by almost 7 million people in the 5 years since he started writing for MotleyHeath.com.
As much as I too love printed books and as much as I look forward to the day that I can share my book collection with my children, I see that printed books will ultimately be in decline and maybe one day printed books will be a distance memory. What do you think? Is this a change for the better or the death of a part of our cultural history?