E-Books, print destined to coexist
E-readers are handy, cool and convenient, but they will never be able to do to reading what MP3 Players have done to music. Despite the high hopes of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and all the other companies so desperately hoping to take over the market with their e-readers, the devices simply do not have what it takes to completely extinguish print books.
The benefits of e-readers are undeniable, and given the success of the Kindle, the Nook and the iPad, it is clear that the devices will not be going anywhere. Their slim size makes them extremely convenient for on-the-go readers. Their large storage capacity allows them to contain bookshelves worth of books in a size smaller than most hard covers. Best of all, the ability to browse and purchase books from the comfort of your own home (or, in the case of the Kindle which includes global 3G internet coverage, anywhere), makes e-readers perfect for when you want to read a specific book but don’t want to go to a bookstore.
While e-readers are great for pleasure reading, they will never be able to surpass their print companions when it comes to serious reading and comprehension. As any student who has had to deal with an electronic textbook knows, it’s much harder to study staring at a screen and trying to figure out some clumsy way to take notes than it is to simply rest a print book on your lap and scribble notes, questions and diagrams on the margins.
Another problem with e-books is that they cannot be sold, traded or lent out as print books can. Once you buy an e-book, it is yours. You can delete it from your e-reader if you do not want to see it, but it is still yours. You cannot even loan it to a friend unless you want to entrust them with your entire $200 dollar e-reader and the rest of your e-book collection as well. You cannot buy a used e-book if you want to be cheap or trade e-books in for store credit. Throw in the fact that e-books are often the same price as or only slightly cheaper than print books, there often seems to be little reason to buy the e-book format.
E-books are strings of data, binary 1s and 0s converted to readable print by the software and hardware that makes up an e-reader. Readers cannot touch e-books, feel them, or smell that used book smell from them. The fact that e-books are incorporeal further decreases their perceived value and makes it so that, when faced with identical prices for an e-book and a print book, the print book often seems like the most logical choice.
Barring a drastic change in the way e-books and e-readers are priced, it is impossible for them to overtake print books. Reading e-books on a computer screen is unpleasant, and only serious readers are willing to invest in an e-reader. Both print and e-book formats are here to stay.
Casey Goodwin is a mechanical engineering sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]