The controversy around traditional books verses eBooks is one that raises emotions akin to differences surrounding such hot button issues as religion and politics. Having jumped into the world of digital books approximately three years ago, I have formed definite opinions on the issue. As it involves new technology bumping into an ancient human activity, namely reading, the topic is tied to the profound changes that the digital age is having on humanity.
I think that in regards to this subject, a few points relevant to the history of books are important to keep in mind. When the printing press first became popular in the fifteenth century, folks, mostly scholars, protested that the new machines produced books of much lower quality than handwritten tomes.
In the twentieth century, when paperbacks first became popular, there was protest over their low quality as opposed to hardcovers. First, of course, this history illustrates that changes in the way that we read books are commonly resisted as folks defend the old ways. I am not completely dismissing the above arguments. After all, I think that it could be argued that aesthetically, handwritten tomes were far superior to printed books or, more importantly, that mass-produced paperbacks lack many of the merits of hardcovers.
I would contend that we place too much value on cheap paperbacks and lower quality hardcovers. I do not see all that much tactile or aesthetic appeal to these lower grade books.
If one wants to fight for traditional books, I say make it about quality books that are worth it. Of course, for a personal collector, the issue of cost comes into play. I fantasize about a library of high quality hardcovers. A perusal of such books online indicates that price escalates with quality.
For someone such as myself who likes to delve deeply into books, the benefits of eBooks are immense. I can, and do, take numerous notes and make comments, as well as highlight passages. This would destroy a conventional book. I recently did read an old-fashioned book, and I filled it with post-it notes in lieu of the electronic notes that I am now used to.
Likewise, the copy and paste function is invaluable for bloggers and others who need to use quotations from a book. As I do look up unfamiliar words, the dictionary function is very convenient and useful. I even use the word search, which is better than an index. Of course, particularly with history books, my ability to search the web for additional information, maps, charts, etc., greatly enhances my reading experience.
With all of that, I do not discount the value of traditional books. I have made several references to quality hardcovers. I believe that these may represent the future of conventional books much like vinyl records have made a comeback among folks who enjoy collecting music. I think that it is a good bet that eBooks will eventually replace soft covers. I am aware that sales of old-fashioned books have stabilized, but as digital book technology continues to get better and more economical, I would surmise the erosion in paperback sales will commence again.
I do have a vision of my fantasy library. It would be filled with the high quality hard cover tomes. Though I already own a very few of them, cost has sadly prevented me from embarking upon any real collecting. I wonder, however, if I did possess such an impressive library, if the great books would still sit on a shelf while I read digital versions of them. There are just too many advantages to eBooks!
|I recently read a traditional book. I have become so dependent on note taking this was the shocking result.|
If one considers the history of positive human progress, such progress is often aided by advances in communication. EBooks are part of the larger digital evolution that allows folks to instantly communicate with one another and to access vast reservoirs of human knowledge. Digital books give us access to millions of books, relatively cheaply, at the press of a few points on a keyboard or screen. They add to our ability to cross reference information and utilize words much more easily than ever before. These advantages cannot be overstated. In my opinion, this will only enhance the spread of knowledge and ideas, which has traditionally led to great benefits for humanity.
do know that many of my readers will disagree with many of my points here. Folks are understandably attached to old-fashioned books. For me, the real virtue of a tome is its contents, not its package. However, I do place great value in the kind of traditional book that I think deserves to be valued. Nevertheless, I would argue that anything that makes the contents of books more accessible, understandable and interactive is a really good thing.