The Age of E-books

Humans are quite the inventors. What doesn’t exist, they can imagine into existence. When they need to achieve something, they try and try and try until they get it done. Then they work on getting it done faster and easier than before. Writing is one of our greatest inventions. Up there, in the hall of fame, alongside fire and the wheel and agriculture.

Writing has enabled us to record our history, to pass down knowledge and information. But like any other invention, writing has also suffered a number of changed during the five or so millennia since its invention. In Ancient Egypt they used stone or parchment, in Mesopotamia, clay tablets. These were replaced by the codex, which was similar to today’s books. They had to be handwritten and were luxury items. Then Gutenberg invented the press, making books more affordable.

Now it’s all changing again. For quite some time, I know, but there’s a new format that’s slowly making the physical book obsolete. The e-book.

Some five years ago I wrote this post about e-books versus paperbacks. A lot has changed since then. I often find myself downloading the e-book version and start reading it on my phone or computer. It is easy, it is faster. I do not have to worry about storage space ( when you own a couple thousand books, you kind of become paranoid you’ll eventually get kicked out of the house by paperbacks).

Now, this poses an interesting dilemma. New versus old? Nostalgia versus utilitarianism? Which do you choose? What would happen in a doomsday scenario where there’s no more electricity? What happens then to all this knowledge we’ve accumulated for thousands and thousands of years.

As a side note: people are less willing to memorize something for the simple reason of it being available on the web. It’s there. It takes a few moments to find it.

However, a book is forever. Or close to it. As long as you store it properly, it can last for a very long time.

We are now at this crossing. Paperback sales are becoming a rarity. A sort of luxury item. I work on making paperback editions of my books for the sole reason of having them on my bookshelf. No more than a vanity. Sales account to less than 20% of the overall, and I’m thinking I am lucky.

But is it bad? This e-book revolution? Having so much information readily available on the web? Being able to instantly download any book and start reading right away? That a single server can host more books than a bunch of libraries combined?

I am curios to know your thoughts on this matter.

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6 thoughts on “The Age of E-books

  1. Both are advantageous, similar to the advantages the digital landscape has gifted artists, but traditional artwork has it’s own advantages. Neither are superior, e-books and paper-books I hope can coexist. I’ve found it to be intelligent, in case of documents to have a digital and a physical copy.
    As you said, if electricity is removed, then there goes all of your records, all literature contained within the digital sphere. Conversely, water, fire, and other matters can warp and destroy physical books.
    I enjoy both, e-books for the utilitarian aspect, physical books for the sincerity I feel from them, and that these works can exist outside the pervasive and encroaching collective. A work able to exist without social scrutiny. Of course, depending on the circumstance, the e-book could be the more secluded, traded off of the internet.
    Now my head is spinning.

  2. As they say, change is the only constant in life. I only started reading e-books about 2 years ago but it is so convenient that I haven’t bought a paperback in as long. E-books didn’t appeal to me initially but switching has made me read more books, an average of 2 books every week from a few books a year. The e-readers are on my phone which is always with me so every time I have a moment or am waiting for an appointment, I can read a book. After my last house move where I had to pack and move heavy boxes with books (which are still in boxes nearly 2 years later) I think I’m going to stick to e-books.

  3. Like yourself, I now read mostly from downloads on Kindle. I do agree, however, that there is still something special about holding a well produced book in your hand, turning the pages, and delighting in the craftsmanship involved, especially if the book has perfectly matched illustrations. Yesterday I attended a business show and had a wonderful conversation with someone representing a printing company. Much of their products now come from speciality printing. He displayed a wonderful book, which had limited copies, and was concerning letters written by a serviceman during WW2 to his wife. This family had chosen to preserve the letters in book form and had spared no cost to have it designed and printed and hand bound because that was what the book deserved. I see this as the way forward.

  4. I love books. I love the feel and smell of them. I don’t like staring at screens for hours as they make me feel spaced out if I do this for too long. I collect hardcovers of my favourite authors and I really cherish the thick creme paper they have. E-Books are too impersonal for me.

  5. I get ebooks, when I don’t have money to get real books. Thankfully in India we get cheap second hand books (0.1-0.3 dollars), so it’s not usually a problem:) To make sure it doesn’t take up space at home, about every few months I pick a few to give away. The recipients are usually friends (Hey! I saw this book in my cupboard and thought of you!) and local libraries (who are always happy to take in more books). I keep a precious few- usually classics or books I want to read again. And when I’m searching for a quote, I know exactly where to find it!

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